Kung Fu movie - David Carradine

Universal Pictures has acquired the film rights to Kung Fu, the 1970s TV series starring David Carradine, and the studio has hired David Leitch to direct a contemporary Kung Fu movie. Leitch, who has previously directed films like Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, and Hobbs and Shaw, seems like an obvious choice to infuse this story with the kind of frenetic, action-packed choreography we’ve seen across his filmography.

Deadline reports that Leitch will direct the Kung Fu movie, which doesn’t yet have a writer attached. But this idea has been kicking around Hollywood for a long time (pun intended): the late Bill Paxton was planning to direct a movie version back in 2011, and Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge) was attached to a version for Legendary in 2014.

The original TV show, which first ran from 1972 to 1975, starred David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin monk who wandered across the American West in search of his half brother. There were always fight scenes (it was an action series, after all), but Caine was a peaceful character who only used his martial arts skills when provoked. The show was a hit in its day, and it has lived on in the pop culture consciousness thanks to references in widely-viewed films like Office Space and many of the works of Quentin Tarantino.

Carradine reprised his role in several TV versions of Kung Fu after the original show went off the air. You can watch a (truly terrible) clip from 1986’s Kung Fu: The Movie here:

One would assume that Leitch wouldn’t incur Twitter’s wrath by casting a white male in the lead role of this movie, but stranger things have happened.

It looks like we may be on the precipice of a Kung Fu-issance. Not only is The Matrix 4 coming soon (you’ll surely recall Keanu Reeves bewilderingly uttering the phrase, “I know kung fu” in the original), but Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is in the works (that movie’s protagonist uses kung fu), and there’s also a female-led TV version of Kung Fu in development at The CW. The TV version has been in the works for a couple of years, and I have to wonder how Greg Berlanti and the other producers of that series feel about this announced movie. Will they ignore its existence, or try to set the two stories in the same universe? What if the film bombs? Will that have any negative impact on the show? Will the film or the series debut to the public first? Stay tuned.

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