Polar Express Star Rides to Zathura

The Hollywood Reporter brings word that Josh Hutcherson, who provides the voice of the main character in Warner Bros.’ upcoming CG Holiday flick, The Polar Express, has been cast as one of the leads in Columbia Pictures fantasy adventure Zathura, also based on a book by Chris Van Allsburg. The 11-year-old will star alongside Oscar winner Tim Robbins (Mystic River) and seven-year-old Jonah Bobo.

Van Allsburg wrote Zathura as a sequel to his 1981 book, Jumanji, which Columbia adapted for the big-screen in 1995. The book begins as brothers Danny and Walter Budwing stumble upon the Jumanji jungle game in the park and discover that it contains a second game board with an outer-space theme. The boys are then unwittingly drawn into an intergalactic adventure.

Columbia optioned Zathrua four years ago and planned to make it as a sequel to Jumanji, but has since decided to make it stand on its own. Michael De Luca and Bill Teitler are producing the film with co-producer Peter Billingsley. Radar Pictures’ Ted Field and Louis D’Esposito are exec producing. Elf helmer Jon Favreau will direct from a screenplay by David Koepp, John Kamps and Eric Fogel. The film s pegged for a 2005 release.

Hutcherson also appeared in Fine Line Features’ American Splendor, based on the life of underground comic-book creator Harvey Pekar. His younger co-star, Bobo, is set to appear in a feature outing for the cancelled Comedy Central series Strangers with Candy, which David Letterman is exec producing.