Ben Affleck impressed quite a few with his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, and his follow-up, The Town, has done quite well at the box office. So the identity of the third Ben Affleck film has become the subject of no small speculation. He was offered Tales From the Gangster Squad by Warner Bros. and passed. Now it seems as if he might revive an old project at the studio: a Jason Smilovic script called Replay, in which he could star as well.
Deadline says the script is based on Ken Grimwood‘s novel of the same name. About a month ago the site reported that Mr. Smilovic was doing a page one rewrite of the script draft by Richard LaGravenese. That rewrite reportedly motivated Ben Affleck’s interest in the project. (As well as the interest of other creatives.)
The book sounds like a strange beast, which explains part of the reason is has been kicking around Hollywood for twenty years waiting for an adaptation to happen. It certainly isn’t your run of the mill 18-again story. There’s some meaty plot to chew on here:
Jeff Winston, a failing 43-year-old radio journalist, dies and wakes up in his 18-year-old body in 1963 with his memories of the next 25 years intact. He views the future from the perspective of naive 1963: “null-eyed punks in leather and chains . . . death-beams in orbit around the polluted, choking earth . . . his world sounded like the most nightmarish of science fiction.” But Grimwood has transcended genre with this carefully observed, literate and original story. Jeff’s knowledge soon becomes as much a curse as a blessing. After recovering from the shock (is the future a dream, or is it real life?), he plays out missed choices. In one life, for example, he falls in love with Pamela, a housewife who died nine minutes after Jeff; they try to warn the world of the disasters it faces, coming in conflict with the government and history.
So is this a situation where constant script rewrites have kept the basic structure of the novel but changed a great many details in order to orient the story in the time period, or is the current draft faithful to the novel? I’d expect the former.
And is Ben Affleck deliberately looking to move his movies out of Boston? As much as I love the sense of place in his two Boston-set films, it would be a good idea for him to move out of the city, at least for one film, just so he’s not always the Boston guy. This would be a nice change of pace plotwise, too, while still allowing him to make the sort of actor’s film he seems to prefer. Just don’t say it sounds anything like Paycheck, ok? Because that would be silly.