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Robert Downey Jr. might go from Iron Man to Doctor Dolittle

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Robert Downey Jr. is accustomed to playing a fast-thinking, hard-hitting hero in both the Iron Man and Sherlock franchises, but he’ll be playing a very different sort of protagonist in the next potential film series he’ll star in.

Downey is reportedly set to play the title role in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle for Universal Pictures. The live-action film — and potential franchise-starting project — is based on Hugh Lofting’s beloved 1920s children’s literature character. Academy Award winner Stephen Gaghan (Syriana) is expected to direct the film from a script he penned.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Universal won the rights to Doctor Dolittle last week after an intense bidding war with multiple studios. The film is being positioned as the first installment of a new family-friendly franchise for Downey.

Doctor Dolittle famously starred in a series of children’s books penned by Lofting, beginning with 1920’s The Story of Doctor Dolittle. A doctor who prefers animal patients rather than humans, he can speak animals’ languages and uses his talents to help both people and animals in various adventures around the world.

Lofting’s stories were set in early Victorian England, and often centered around the fictional English village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh where Dolittle lives.

Doctor Dolittle’s adventures were previously brought to the screen in a 1967 musical starring Rex Harrison, and then again in a 1998 film starring Eddie Murphy, which spawned a 2001 sequel that was released theatrically, as well as multiple direct-to-video sequels.

Downey will reprise his role as Marvel Comics hero Iron Man — and his industrialist alter ego Tony Stark — in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, and then again in the big team-up film Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel.

There’s no word on when The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle will begin production.

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