Nov 25, 2015

Tradecraft: WB Tries Again for a Spy Franchise of Their Own with White Knight

Universal has one with Bourne. Paramount has one with Mission: Impossible. As of this year, Fox now potentially has two with Kingsman and Spy. And of course MGM has the biggest one of all with James Bond. For the time being anyway, Sony shares it. (Sony's co-production deal ended with SPECTRE, and MGM and EON will renegotiate that deal or else find a new partner early next year.) Warner Bros. is the only major studio without a lucrative spy franchise. And they want one—badly. Really badly. It's easy to see why. Paramount, Fox and Sony/MGM each made more than half a billion dollars off of their respective spy franchises this year alone. Warner tried hard this year with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (review here). They continued making big, expensive TV ad buys in its second and third week even after Guy Ritchie's film opened below expectations. And it's a real shame their efforts didn't pay off, because The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was an excellent movie, and has all the makings of an excellent franchise. (Personally, I'm still praying it does well enough on home video to warrant a sequel, but that's admittedly a long shot.) But for whatever reasons, they didn't. So Warner Bros. is still searching for a spy franchise. Next year they'll make a big play for Bond, but obviously they can't rely on that, so they're looking other places as well, especially at filmmakers with whom they have good relationships. One such filmmaker is Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace), whose Johnny Depp gangster pic Black Mass was one of the studio's few hits this year.

Deadline reports that Cooper "is making a deal to rewrite and direct White Knight, a film that gives Warner Bros a potential series in the Bourne Identity/James Bond mold." I assume that's Deadline's roundabout way of saying it's a potential spy franchise. According to the trade, "Cooper will rewrite a script by Bill Dubuque (The Judge) that focuses on a disgraced Secret Service agent. When his relationship with his employer sours, the agent takes a job protecting the family of an arms dealer, putting himself at the center of a global CIA manhunt." "White Knight" was of course James Bond's callsign in Tomorrow Never Dies (and the title of a highly memorable piece of music by David Arnold), so perhaps that bodes well for WB. Then again, I doubt anyone involved in this project realizes that! Of course, if Warner Bros. is successful in their bid for Bond, then I expect interest to dwindle rapidly in this project, and probably all hope to fade completely for an U.N.C.L.E. sequel.

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