The recent release of the list of top ten most successful films on Netflix also featured their most expensive flick The Irishman by Martin Scorsese. Buoyed by the success of period gangster drama, they are all set to go a step further.
The recent announcement of their upcoming film, The Gray Man featuring Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling is all set to surpass The Irishman in terms of budget. Directed by hotshot director duo – Joe Russo and Anthony Russo more commonly known as the Russo Brothers, Netflix has just raised the benchmark by allocating $200 million for the film’s production.
Budget apart, The Gray Man also has history attached to it. Prior to Netflix, two major production houses have tried to bring a film based on author Mark Greaney’s thrilling novel series to celluloid in the past.
The core of the novel revolves around Court Gentry, a CIA operative turned assassin, who is on a mission to protect his daughters (he is not even aware of their existence) from a team that has been dispatched to exterminate him. The plot deals with his time in Europe where he must put to use his espionage skills to avert the approaching danger. It is believed that the nature of the plot is very similar to the Bourne series.
A Brief History of The Gray Man
There have been several attempts in the past to make a celluloid version of the thriller novel, but every time the attempt has fallen flat. The film was originally slated to be produced by Israeli filmmaker Arnon Milchan (producer of films like The Revenant, Birdman and 12 Years a Slave) and was supposed to star Brad Pitt in the lead. At that time the film had the backing of New Regency and was to be directed by James Gray. But with development delays and stretching of schedules, Brad Pitt got bored of the project, lost interest and eventually quit the film.
With Pitt’s departure from the project, James Gray was even thinking of roping in Jeremy Renner and Joaquin Phoenix for the mega project. But the idea remained a pipe dream and nothing materialized with Gray too quitting the project at a later stage. Later on, James successfully collaborated twice with Brad Pitt when he directed the star in The Lost City of Z and Ad Astra.
The book was optioned again and this time Sony Pictures came into the fray. Sony Pictures immediately brought on board Russo Brothers and were assigned the task to develop the screenplay. When the screenplay was being developed, Sony Pictures did something that was unthinkable – they went for a gender swap of the lead character.
The success of Salt featuring Angelina Jolie had given the executives at Sony the idea to swap the gender of the lead character. They approached actress Charlize Theron to step into the title role of The Gray Man. Soon after Russo Brothers took leave from the project as work was about to start on Captain America: Civil War and the final two installments of The Avengers. But before they took leave, they ensured that the project had a director and a writing team in place.
Before Russos came back
Christopher McQuarrie (director of MI: Fallout and MI: Rouge Nation and writer of The Usual Suspects) was roped in as director and Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse were assigned the task to rewrite the script keeping in mind the gender change. So gung ho was Sony about filming the project that they made it a priority project and even announced a filming date – first half of 2016.
At that time, Sony’s production President Michael De Luca was so besotted by the book that when the book was optioned again he paid a seven figure sum to acquire the rights. History was repeated at Sony Pictures too and similar to Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron said her bye to the project. Bored with mounting delays, she too dissociated her name from the project.
Now with Netflix at the helm of affairs one only hope that the project is third time lucky.
In 2010, Mark Greaney was once asked who he would like to see in a screen adaptation of the film. His wish list was as follow.
- Court Gentry – Cassey Affleck
- Sir Donald Fitzroy (Gentry’s handler) – Sir Michael Caine
- Lloyd (Attorney for French corporation) – James Franco
- Kurt Riegel (German security chief) – Christoph Waltz
- Lazlo Szabo (Hungarian forger) – Peter Stormare