Apr 30, 2008

Tradecraft For April 30, 2008

Martin Campbell Keeps Busy

Whew! The spy news is coming so fast and furious these days it's hard to keep up with it! Goldeneye and Casino Royale director Martin Campbell himself is generating a lot of it, with two new spy film announcements in the trades in as many days.

Edge of Darkness

First, Variety reports that Campbell will remake his own 1985 cult British miniseries Edge of Darkness with Mel Gibson stepping into the role that Bob Peck created over two decades ago. I haven't seen Edge of Darkness since I was a teenager, but it left quite a lasting impression. As I recall, it's fantastic television, hinged on some arresting performances by Peck, Joanne Whalley (pre -Kilmer) and Joe Don Baker, playing his first CIA agent for Campbell. (His Darius Jedburgh is equal parts Texan charm and sinister creepiness.)

The original story (written by Troy Kennedy Martin, writer of The Italian Job and Reilly, Ace of Spies, which Campbell also co-directed) followed a dedicated cop (and former intelligence officer) as he investigates the murder of his environmental activist daughter. The investigation uncovers layer upon layer of nuclear conspiracy involving the CIA, MI5, the Thatcher government and big business. As he peels away these layers, though, he exposes himself to great danger--both physical and mental. Is his daughter's ghost really helping him? Or is he going mad? Dark Horizons notes that the series' original ending was truly surreal, with Peck's character turning into a tree! Don't worry; I haven't spoiled anything; it doesn't end like that... but it's not exactly a feel-good ending either. One wonders how Hollywood will alter that. With Campbell once again at the helm, and Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan (Body of Lies) handling the script, it should be in good hands. But Gibson will certainly have his work cut out for him living up to Bob Peck's towering performance.

Just writing about this makes me want to see the original miniseries again. Hopefully the impending movie version will spur a Region 1 DVD release!

Campbell, Surnow and Cruise Join Forces

Hot on the heels of that news comes the news in today's Variety that Campbell will also direct a "contemporary spy thriller" written by 24 scribes Joel Surnow and Michael Loceff for Tom Cruise's United Artists. "This is an original concept that both UA and I feel will have an impact creatively and commercially," Surnow tells the trade. The plot is being kept under tight wraps, and there's no word yet on whether or not Cruise is eying the project as a star vehicle for himself. If he were, that would be a pretty cool spy dream team, though, combining talents associated with James Bond, Jack Bauer and Ethan Hunt! According to Variety, "UA ... has made it a priority to find a commercially viable franchise for Cruise, though the studio wouldn't confirm whether the Surnow/Campbell project was specifically designed for the Mission: Impossible star.

Champions Movie Still in the Works

The same Variety article also contains a small update on the bigscreen version of cult UK TV show The Champions: "The new project gives UA two plum commercial projects, the other being The Champions, an adaptation of the '60s British TV adventure series that had Guillermo del Toro attached. The helmer will likely have to be replaced, after committing to four years in New Zealand making two films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. UA parent MGM shares The Hobbit with New Line Cinema and Warner Bros."

Wow! I never thought I'd hear anyone refer to The Champions, a cool but very obscure (in the U.S., anyway) ITC spy/superhero hybrid that lasted just one season as a "plum commercial project!" But it's great to know that UA sees it that way, and plans to proceed with the project even without Del Toro. I was wondering what was going to happen to The Champions when he committed to The Hobbit. Guess it might still happen! Something to look forward to. I hope they manage to find a director at least half as cool as Del Toro to ensure a quality adaptation.

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