Jul 29, 2009

Tradecraft: Steven Spielberg Interested In Directing Matt Helm!

Holy shit! Sorry, I try to keep my content family-friendly, but this item deserves such an exclamation! It looks like the long-gestating Matt Helm reboot may finally be gaining traction. Big traction! Variety's Michael Fleming is reporting that Steven Spielberg himself may direct the movie. As previously reported, Paul Attanasio has penned the latest draft of the script, and Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (currently the hottest guys in the business) are producing. The trade says that "the current script is set in the present and the tone is closer to The Bourne Identity than those campy Matt Helm films that Dean Martin toplined in the 1960s." That bit should delight the many fans of Donald Hamilton's novels who have long dreamed of a truer, grittier screen adaptation!

Spielberg has famously long wanted to direct a popcorn spy movie. (I say "popcorn" to indicate that Munich doesn't count.) He approached the James Bond producers back in the late Seventies while still riding the success of Jaws, and Cubby Broccoli turned him down. Broccoli reasoned that a director of Spielberg's stature would surely not only demand final cut, but also profit participation, both things that the keepers of the 007 franchise have always been loathe to give up. When Broccoli refused his services, it's an oft-told tale that Spielberg's buddy George Lucas called him up and said, "I've got something better than Bond," and thus began the Indiana Jones phenomenon. Lucas and Spielberg later tipped their hat to Indy's cinematic progenitor by casting Sean Connery as the archaeologist's father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Now, ironically, Spielberg may once again be denied his spy-directing dreams. Even though he's pretty much the King of Hollywood and has his pick of scripts, Matt Helm remained at Paramount following Spielberg's DreamWorks' divorce from that studio. "While some DreamWorks-developed projects left behind at Paramount give Spielberg and [DreamWorks prexy Stacey] Snider the option to co-finance and co-distribute, Matt Helm isn’t one of them," reports Fleming. "The picture is 100% owned by Paramount." And Paramount, he reminds us, "has made a concerted effort to cut back on first-dollar gross deals [and] might not want to step up to Spielberg’s traditionally rich deal and could save money by going with another filmmaker." So poor Steven Spielberg, who used to clear his head by flying remote control helicopters around his garage while blasting "The James Bond Theme" from a portable stereo, is once again in the exact same position as he was way back in the 1970s when he wanted to direct 007!

Despite the high cost of doing business, I can't imagine the studio turning away the man who launched the Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park franchises (not to mention Jaws). Fleming reports that Paramount execs are quite excited about the new script, and are excited about its franchise potential. And nobody does franchises like Steven Spielberg... Let's keep our fingers crossed. This is potentially very exciting news. I, for one, would love to see Spielberg try his hand at a good old-fashioned spy thriller!

The Variety article concludes by teasing that "the drama is expected to play out by week’s end."


Anonymous said...

That's not the only reason Cubby tunred down Broccoi. In my opinion Spielbeg also wanted to cast Sean Connery again. If you read the Indiana Jones anthology he mentions to George Lucas that he "wants to direct a James Bond film with Sean Connery in". This leads me to think that, that was the reason. You can't blame Broccoli for that either, as it's unreasonable. It was Roger Moore's time as Bond and that's what the kid's of the 80's wanted.

Anonymous said...

Oops I mean Cubby turned down Spielberg, LOL