'Nautilus' Aims to Solve the Mysteries of Captain Nemo

James Mason 20000 Leagues Under the Sea
James Mason as Captain Nemo in the 1954 movie "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." (Disney)

Disney has announced plans to make a 10-part live-action series about the early years of Jules Verne's legendary submarine captain. "Nautilus" will air on the Disney+ streaming service.

Origin stories have been popular in recent years. Disney had a hit this summer with "Cruella," and the DC "Joker" movie cleaned up both at the box office and on the awards circuit. Captain Nemo is every bit as compelling a dark character and, with the right amount of imagination, should make for a great story.

Verne concealed the character's background in the 1870 novel "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" but subsequently revealed that he was an East Indian prince in the 1875 sequel "Mysterious Island."

When the original novel was first published, mechanically powered submarine technology was in its infancy, and Verne's imaginary Nautilus was so visionary that the U.S. Navy named the world's first nuclear-powered submarine after Nemo's vessel 80 years later.

Nemo was first portrayed onscreen by actor Allen Holubar in a 1916 silent film "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," but it's James Mason's performance in the 1954 Disney movie of the same name that remains the definitive version of the character.

Herbert Lom, Robert Ryan, Omar Sharif and Michael Caine have played the part in movies and television programs over the years since, but no one has ever matched Mason's impact in the role.

The new Disney version will portray Nemo as that East Indian prince who was deprived of both his family and his birthright. Bent on revenge against the East India Company, he sets out on the seas with a score to settle.

Filming will begin in early 2022, and there's no word yet about casting. Dev Patel, currently starring in "The Green Knight," seems the obvious first choice if Disney is serious about cultural representation.

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