Joe Carnahan‘s new film The Grey opens this week, and the movie is a return to the early promise of Carnahan’s movie Narc, which was released in 2004. The Grey is a solid little movie that combines familiar characters with tense action and survival situations, and it should do pretty well with audiences. And if the movie does click with the public, we might see it back in theaters late this year, the better to position it for possible awards.

In an interview with The Playlist, Carnahan says that he wanted to get The Grey into the Toronto Film Festival. Given that the film was shot in British Columbia, that wouldn’t be a stretch, as TIFF is very friendly to films with Canadian roots. But effects and Liam Neeson’s schedule forced a delay in release, to this coming Friday.

But the January release date shouldn’t be taken as one that connotes quality, or a lack thereof, says Carnahan. In fact, there are plans for an Oscar-qualifying re-release later this year.

And let’s ignore the fact that everybody says January’s a dumping ground. They make too many movies these days for any one month to be a dumping ground. Obviously ‘Taken’ was a January release for Liam that did quite well. Honestly, it’s nice to even be mentioned, the idea that people even think it’s awards-worthy. That’s flattering. Open Road has said flat out and sort of scrawled it in blood that they’re going to release the film in October 2012 for a qualifying run, which is great.

Hard to say right now if that will actually happen, but if the film does well with audiences and critics, that October re-release could (maybe, somehow, in a world that I don’t actually think exists) happen.

Meanwhile, Carnahan is looking towards his next films, and Liam Neeson might have a part in a couple of them. Carnahan and Neeson worked together on The A-Team, and when Bradley Cooper dropped out of The Grey, Neeson stepped in. That’s a move that really makes The Grey work — it is almost impossible to look at the movie being released this week and imagine it being at all the same with Cooper in the role. Serendipity saved Carnahan with this one, and be wants to keep working with Neeson.

Carnahan still wants to make Killing Pablo, the Pablo Escobar film he’s been developing for years. That is ideally next for him. But he has also been developing an adaptation of James Ellroy‘s White Jazz, a ’50s-set novel that features Ellroy’s signature obsessions: Los Angeles, crime and the LAPD.

White Jazz features the cop Dudley Smith, who appears in other Ellroy stories and was played by James Cromwell in L.A. Confidential. Carnahan tells Vulture,

For ‘White Jazz,’ I would want Liam to play the Dudley Smith character. When ‘L.A. Confidential’ came out — and I loved James Cromwell in that film and Liam would have been a tad too young then, at that time — but Liam is absolutely 100 percent the Dud.

And Carnahan is interested in making the film adaptation of Mark Millar‘s comic Nemesis, and says “for Nemesis, I think [Neeson would] be a great Blake Morrow.” Those projects are all a ways in the future, but I’d be happy to see the director and actor teaming again, especially if the result is more like this week’s release than The A-Team.

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