Dwayne Johnson in Pain and Gain

These days, if you’re making an action movie, it’s a simple process. Step one: try and get Dwayne Johnson. Step two: everything else.

Universal has just about accomplished that first step for the upcoming adaptation of Robert Ludlum‘s The Janson Directive. Johnson is in talks to star in and produce the film, which is based on a book by the late  Bourne series author. This, too, is a potential franchise starter, about a legendary covert agent who starts a private agency and finds himself being hunted by his own people. There’s no writer or director yet, but if Johnson is attached, that should change quickly. Read more about The Janson Directive movie here. Read More »

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Brian Kirk in Talks to Direct ‘The Osterman Weekend’

The other way to write the headline for this story would be “Game of Thrones Director to Remake Sam Peckinpah Film.” But even the most ardent Peckinpah fan — and I’m pretty damn ardent — isn’t going to yell very loud to claim Peckinpah’s adaptation of the novel by Robert Ludlum as one of the director’s fairer works.

In fact, if there’s a Peckinpah film that begs for a remake it might be this one. The director was unhealthy and nearly outcast from the film industry when he was hired to give the original production some action cred. But he hated the script (so did the screenwriter, supposedly) and wanted to rewrite it. After the producers forbade that, Peckinpah made the movie but delivered a cut that test audiences and the producers detested. He was fired, the movie was re-cut without him, and the result is nothing that anyone is too eager to highlight on their resume.

So now Brian Kirk, the Game of Thrones director who was originally tapped to direct Thor 2 for Marvel, is in talks to direct a new version of the story about a guy who is told that his friends are actually enemy spies. Read More »

Frank Marshall to Direct ‘Covert One’?

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Robert Ludlum didn’t entirely write the Covert One series of books; before his death, he co-wrote some and merely ‘oversaw’ or produced others. But his name’s on there anyway, which makes them just that bit easier to sell to audiences who wouldn’t mind seeing another Bourne film.

So get ready for a Covert One movie, which will potentially feature “a top-secret team of political and technical experts who fight corruption and conspiracy at the highest and most dangerous levels of society.” Read More »

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Update: Tom Cruise was being courted for at least six different big Hollywood projects. Out of all the possible projects, the star has chosen the least interesting one. Cruise is in talks to join Cameron Diaz in the 20th Century Fox action-comedy Wichita. Cruise will play an undercover agent who pops in and out of the life of a woman (Diaz) who has man trouble. Cruise and Diaz have approved the script, which most recently was worked on by Scott Frank (The Lookout) and Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island). Directed by Walk the Line/3:10 to Yuma helmer James Mangold, Fox hopes to have the film in theaters for a Summer 2010 release.
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It’s been a busy time for Robert Ludlum watchers these last few days. Not one, not two, not three, not four but five upcoming films to be based, one way or another, on his books have had some fresh light shed upon them. (John Grisham watchers should just pack up their tents; Tom Clancy watchers will probably see some action before long)

Film one. Michael Brandt and Derek Haas have scripted an adaptation of The Matarese Circle. Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington have been tapped to star and David Cronenberg is lining up a nice long sit in the canvas seat. We knew about Michael, Derek, David and Denzel, but the fresh addition of the smiling one seems to suggest big progress is being made. Variety tell us that the sequel novel The Matarese Countdown was snapped up in the same rights swoop – let’s skip to the end and call that film five.

News of films two, three and four below the break.

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Recently, Variety reported that Universal Pictures has aquired the exclusive rights to Jason Bourne character and has inked a first-look deal for other Ludlum novels. This new deal “paves the way” for future Bourne installments. The fourth Bourne film is currently scheduled to be released in summer 2010, with Paul Greengrass directing Matt Damon as Bourne, with a script by George Nolfi.

Jeffrey Weiner, chariman-CEO of Ludlum Entertainment, will now be an active participant in developing the projects. Worth noting is that the Ludlum estate will have contractual approval on screenplays, characters, and actors for the new films, which seems to indicate that any new movies will hew closely to the spirit of the books they are based on. With several high-profile Ludlum projects already in the pipeline, and dozens more that have yet to be put to film, Ludlum’s properties are fast becoming as hot as those of the late Phillip K. Dick (Ludlum left us in 2001).

Personally, I’m rather torn about this news. I am probably one of the biggest Bourne fans out there (I saw both Supremacy and Ultimatum on opening night in the theaters, and loved them both despite their flaws). But with the Bourne series becoming a huge cash cow grossing more than $1 billion worldwide, Universal obviously sees it as a way to print money and to compete against the newly rejuvenated Bond franchise (whose recent films, ironically, took a lot of their inspiration from Bourne). I don’t want to live to see the day when Bourne Film #13 is coming out in theaters with Haley Joel Osment as Bourne and Simon West directing. The trilogy was wonderful and singular, and the fourth film has a small shot at continuing the legacy. I would prefer that they not milk this one until all that’s left is a withered and dessicated teat of greatness.

Discuss: Are you looking forward to more Bourne films? Do you want this series to become as massive as the Bond franchise?

Yeah yeah, we all wanted another killer gaping orifice movie. Celebrated director David Cronenberg is in talks to helm The Matarese Circle, a global conspiracy thriller based on the 1979 book by the late author Robert Ludlum (the Bourne franchise). Denzel Washington is already attached to play one of the leads in the MGM production, with an adapted screenplay to be written by the duo Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (3:10 to Yuma, Wanted, Wanted 2, CTK).

Set during the Cold War, the novel follows two rival spies—one U.S./CIA, the other a Soviet/KGB—who team to uncover and defeat a ruthless Illuminati-like organization called the Matarese that’s behind a century-old conspiracy to crush world governments. There’s also a “mysterious love interest.” Okay, this is where I’ll begin pasting…

“The spies share a genius for espionage—and a life of terror and explosive violence. Sworn enemies, they have vowed to terminate each other—yet now they must become allies.”

Though his name is not mentioned in the announcement or attached to the film, Cronenberg fave, Viggo Mortensen, told E! last month that they were discussing a possible third feature together. Is this it? Washington is signed to play the American, while an actor in the Soviet role was not given. In 2007′s Eastern Promises, Mortensen memorably played a Russian gangster/informant, which earned him an Oscar nod.

Though The Matarese Circle is poised from the get-go to reach a different box office level than Cronenberg’s previous works, it continues the director’s path away from hardcore genre classics like Videodrome, Scanners, Crash and The Fly. Over at CHUD, Devin pours out a bit of 40 oz. for those glory days, and even though seeing Cronenberg explore Alex Jones‘s territory could be appealing, I dunno. I mean, did Denzel watch Dead Ringers and quip “my man“?

Discuss: Cronenberg’s Bourne? Thoughts from those who have read the book?

Uhhh: First Showing’s Alex Billington says he didn’t like A History of Violence or Eastern Promises and feels Cronenberg has fallen off. Enjoy Kirk Cameron’s filmography, Alex.

Source: Variety / Amazon

Jason Bourne Goes to South America?

Producer Frank Marshall revealed to IESB plans to begin shooting a fourth Jason Bourne movie next Summer, for release in 2010. Universal announced the project back in February, with director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon set to return. Marshall also confirmed that they will probably be creating an original story for the fourth film, since author/creator Robert Ludlum wasn’t involved in the later books in the series.

“There was a fourth book written, but it was not by Mr. Ludlum. So we’re probably going to take our own direction and we’re working on what that storyline’s gonna be right now.”

And where will this new adventure bring us? Marshall is predicting that Bourne will journey to “South America.” Watch the full interview on IESB.

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