Oct 14, 2015

Tradecraft: Greaney's Gray Man Gets a Sex Change for Film

This has been a somewhat slow moving project. We first heard word of a movie version of Mark Greaney's debut novel The Gray Man back in 2010, at which point New Regency had the rights and Adam Cozad was scripting. In 2011 James Gray was attached to direct, and Brad Pitt was attached to star. Then nothing for a few years, then last year came the news that Captain America: The Winter Soldier writer/directors Anthony and Joe Russo were penning the script, this time for Sony. Now, in news that's sure to infuriate fans of Greaney's novels, delight those books' detractors, and leave most readers entirely indifferent, Deadline reports that Charlize Theron will play the title character. The Gray Man will become The Gray Lady. (I doubt that will really be the title; it sounds more like a ghost movie than a spy movie to me.) This will make it Theron's second spy movie in a row, following her starring role in the Oni Comics adaptation The Coldest City. (Another one she'd been attached to, however, Agent 13, appears to be dead.) Now neck-deep in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Russo brothers are no longer attached to direct.

Sony has employed the protagonist sex change effectively before, when Salt was rewritten for Angelina Jolie to replace Tom Cruise in the lead role. The nominal plot of Greaney's novel follows an assassin racing across Europe to evade all the world's intelligence services and save the kidnapped family of his handler, but in reality it's yet another spin on Robert Ludlum's genre-defining classic The Bourne Identity. And, in my opinion (as I've written before), it's one of the weakest retreads of that formula. But the formula itself is sound. So if the movie rejects as much from the book as Doug Liman's film The Bourne Identity did (unfortunately) from Ludlum's book, that story kernel combined with great European locations could still make a really good movie. And obviously changing the sex of the lead character is a fairly major step away from the text. So I'm curious to see where this one goes! I do hope, though, for the sake of Greaney's fans, that they change the character's name completely rather than feminizing the improbably named "Court Gentry" to "Courtney Gentry." That would leave room for future Gray Man adaptations that stay true to the character.

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