I, Tonya filmmaker Craig Gillespie is in early talks to take charge of Emma Stone's live-action origins movie about 101 Dalmatians villainess Cruella De Vil.

The Oscar winner signed on to star as the nasty Disney antagonist in early 2016, and had been due to start shooting the project with theatre director and Mozart in the Jungle co-creator Alex Timbers in 2017.

However, production delays forced Timbers to walk away from what was due to become his feature film directorial debut - he is currently preparing to launch Broadway adaptations of Moulin Rouge and Beetlejuice next year (19).

Now Disney officials have turned to Gillespie to step in as Timbers' replacement for Cruella.

If he signs on, it will mark Gillespie's return to the studio, as he previously directed 2016 historical drama The Finest Hours and Jon Hamm's 2014 baseball biopic Million Dollar Arm for Disney.

Cruella will explore the dog-hating fashionista's background and explain how she became so nasty.

The character was created by author Dodie Smith for her 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, which was first adapted for the screen in 1961's animated classic 101 Dalmatians, when Cruella was voiced by Betty Lou Gerson.

Glenn Close famously took over the role on the big screen for 1996's 101 Dalmatians and its 2000 sequel, 102 Dalmatians.

It's the latest Disney title in a long line of live-action projects - movies based on The Little Mermaid, Dumbo, Mulan, and Lady and the Tramp are all in the works, while Jon Favreau's highly-anticipated The Lion King, featuring Beyonce, Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Seth Rogen, is set to open in theatres in July (19).

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