The Walking Dead's Scrapped Rick Grimes Movie Eyed Director Craig Zobel

Universal Pictures reportedly held talks with filmmaker Craig Zobel to direct the theatrical Walking Dead movie, starring Andrew Lincoln in his return as Rick Grimes. The untitled feature, which AMC announced as the first in a trilogy following Lincoln's exit from the television show in 2018, will be replaced by the new series announced during San Diego Comic-Con. Described as an "epic love story of two characters changed by a changed world," the spinoff is set to premiere with six episodes in 2023 on AMC+ and will reunite Lincoln's Rick and Danai Gurira's Michonne after they starred together across seven seasons of The Walking Dead

According to Deadline, Zobel was in talks with Universal to direct the Walking Dead franchise's first feature film before it became a series. Scott Gimple, showrunner of the Rick/Michonne series and chief content officer of AMC's Walking Dead Universe, announced the project as a series of AMC Studios Original Films in November 2018. In July 2019, a cryptic teaser trailer announced that Rick's return would be "only in theaters" and distributed by Universal Pictures rather than air on AMC.

Zobel is best known for helming the well-reviewed Z for Zachariah, a post-apocalyptic thriller centered on a love triangle, and The Hunt, Universal's controversial horror and action-driven political satire from Blumhouse producer Jason Blum.

It's unclear whether the Emmy-nominated director of HBO limited series Mare of Easttown might helm the Rick/Michonne series for AMC+. Zobel has experience in television, directing episodes of American GodsThe LeftoversWestworld, and Outcast, the Cinemax horror-drama series inspired by the comic book of the same name by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman.

"We owe you the end, the conclusion of this story of Rick and Michonne," Gurira told the Comic-Con crowd during a surprise appearance on stage with Lincoln at San Diego's Hall H. Added Lincoln, "I, personally, can't wait to get my cowboy boots back on and get the band back together." 

When announcing the Walking Dead trilogy in 2018, AMC said the first movie would "explore the story of where Rick is taken and what he faces in a new corner of the zombie apocalypse" after Jadis/Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) shuttles him away aboard a Civic Republic Military helicopter. In Season 10 of The Walking Dead, Gurira exited the series when Michonne set out to find the missing Rick more than six years after he was presumed dead. 

AMC describes the Rick and Michonne spinoff: "This series presents an epic love story of two characters changed by a changed world. Kept apart by distance. By an unstoppable power. By the ghosts of who they were. Rick and Michonne are thrown into another world, built on a war against the dead... And ultimately, a war against the living. Can they find each other and who they were in a place and situation unlike any they've ever known before? Are they enemies? Lovers? Victims? Victors? Without each other, are they even alive — or will they find that they, too, are the Walking Dead?" 

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Lincoln and Gurira's Rick/Michonne series premieres in 2023 on AMC+. 

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