Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection
Now that he's played gangsters, pirates and mad hatters, Johnny Depp is set to make some real magic. The Oscar-nominated actor is reportedly in talks to play Harry Houdini in a biopic about the legendary magician, according to Variety. Based on the book The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero, the film will chronicle Houdini's life and career, from his poor childhood, his international fame and the time he spent working as a spy, culminating in his mysterious death on Halloween, 1926. Dean Parisot, who has previously directed Galaxy Quest and Red 2 is on board to direct, which bodes well for the film's intense stunt sequences, and will feature a script from The Maze Runner's Noah Oppenheim.
Depp has long been Hollywood's go-to actor whenever a film requires someone to play an oddball that still appeals to a mainstream audience, so it's not particularly surprising that he's being considered for the role. As an escape artist, illusionist, actor and aviator, Houdini cultivated a reputation for mystery and confusion over the course of his career, and even his death was shrouded in suspicion. Since the height of his fame in the early 20th century, his name has become synonymous with everything weird, perplexing and difficult to explain. Therefore, a fitting biopic would need to incorporate that reputation with the right amount of campiness to properly evoke the vaudeville spirit of his magic shows, and there are few actors in Hollywood who better exemplify campy darkness than Depp.
All of his most famous characters feature the kind of strange, off quality that is necessary to play Houdini, and both his on and off-screen personas lend themselves to portraying someone who is famous for the mystery that surrounds them. And despite being taller than the famously-short Houdini was, Depp looks the part, sharing the same sharp cheekbones, bright blue eyes and charming smile that Houdini was described as having. Depp often uses his charm and wit to make kooky characters seem friendly and entertaining, and Houdini often used his charisma in a similar way, drawing in massive audiences to witness his death-defying stunts. Plus, if there's anyone in Hollywood who looks like an off-duty illusionist, it's the guy who played Edward Scissorhands.
Though Depp's campiness and oddball nature is a major strength of his, many of his recent films have abandoned any kind of subtlety in favor of fully embracing all of the weirdness and absurdity they could possibly pack into one film. While that approach may work for something like Alice in Wonderland, which is set in a fantasy world, it doesn't necessarily bode well for a biopic that is grounded in reality. Houdini was a weird character, but his story is still rooted in the very real dangers that his profession and hobbies provided. A little bit of camp would serve the story well, but too much will overwhelm it and reduce it to simply a vehicle for another wacky performance of Depp's.
Biopics aren't Depp's forte as an actor, as it's often difficult to find real-life person whose story requires the kind of kookiness that Depp naturally exudes. His most recent, Public Enemies, was too serious to allow Depp to properly throw himself into the role, resulting in a performance that felt stilted and wooden. Watching the film, it was difficult to separate Depp from the character of John Dillinger, which makes it difficult for audiences to really connect with the story. While Depp should have better luck losing himself in a character like Houdini, it's still going to be a challenge for him to let go of his off-screen persona and allow moviegoers to experience Houdini, rather than Depp-as-Houdini.
If the script for the film veers too serious, it runs the risk of confining Depp, resulting in an awkward, wooden performance. However, if it edges too far into the absurd, the character or Houdini will probably be overshadowed by all of the funny tics and strange character choices that Depp will make. His recent films aren't known for their moderation, so it would require a strong directorial vision to keep Depp from chewing the scenery to the detriment of the story as a whole. The box office returns of his recent films seem to suggest that fans are looking for something different from Depp, as both the over-the-top weirdness of Lone Ranger and his straight-computer turn in Transcendence failed to win them over. Houdini could be the median he needs to impress moviegoers again, but if the film leans too far into the surreal or the straightforward, Depp will just be doing the same old thing.
Hopefully Depp and the team behind the Houdini biopic will be able to find the right balance between insanity and history in order to make a film that's both critically and financially successful. After all, it's difficult to find a guy who can pull off the suit-and-shackles look quite like Depp can.
Summit Entertainment's Highlander reboot is starting to look like the moors of Scotland, and by that I mean uninhabited by people. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was most recently attached to direct, but he left in November 2012. Now Ryan Reynolds has left the project as well. Reynolds was attached to play Connor MacLeod, an immortal Scottish swordsman forced to confront the Kurgan, a brutal barbarian who lusts for the fabled "Prize."
Art Marcum and Matt Holloway wrote the Highlander reboot, while Noah Oppenheim penned the most recent draft. Melissa Rosenberg also took her turn with the script in 2011. Justin Lin was originally attached to direct in September 2009, though he exited the project in August 2011 to focus on Fast and Furious 6.
Leaving the film won't hurt Reynolds, as he'll soon begin filming Tarsem Singh's thriller Selfless, which FilmDistrict will release on Sept. 26, 2014. He also stars opposite Jeff Bridges in Universal's R.I.P.D and voices the title character in Turbo, which DreamWorks Animation opens July 17. And his exit might actually help the reboot. When it eventually finds a new director, he or she will have more freedom with the vision for the film without being stuck with another director's casting choice.
In the end, there can only be one Highlander star — until he leaves, that is. Then there will be a different one.
Follow Jordyn on Twitter @jordynmyah | Follow Hollywood.com on Twitter @Hollywood_com
More:'R.I.P.D.' Trailer: 'Men In Black' Meets the AfterlifeEmma Watson Teaches Ryan Reynolds What a GIF'Turbo' Snailer (I mean Trailer)
From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)20 Grisliest TV Deaths of 2012-2013 (Vulture)
A little back story - the Black List is not a “best of” list by any regard. Instead it is referred to as a “most liked” list. Each year Franklin Leonard asks several members of the entertainment industry elite - top agents, managers, executives, people like that - to vote for their favorite unproduced screenplays and each year he publishes the resulting list. Several of your favorite unique movies of the past few years (Juno, 500 Days of Summer, Lars and The Real Girl) appeared on the list and it has helped launch quite a few careers.
Having said that, there is a caveat. While the criteria calls for the screenplay to be “unproduced” several of these works have either been optioned and/or are in production. In fact, a few have already been made. And there have been whispers that some agencies and managers stack the list for their own clients so this is by no means a fair or accurate list. But alas, that’s Hollywood baby.
Anyway, on to the most promising sounding scripts!
College Republicans - Wes Jones. Taking the top spot this year is the true story of Karl Rove running for the presidency of the College Of Republicans under the guidance of Lee Atwater. Rove is one of the most devious little bastards of the American political system in the past two decades. It’ll be interesting to see this story translated to screen. Shia LaBeouf and Paul Dano are loosely attached to the project.
Jackie - Noah Oppenheim. The second place script follows Jackie Kennedy in the immediate week following JFK’s assassination. While the nation mourned the loss of its leader, she mourned the death of her husband...intriguing to say the least. Sounds heartwrenching. Steven Spielberg is on board to executive produce through Amblin, with Rachel Weisz in talks to star.
All You Need is Kill - Dante Harper. Third place goes to the first skeptical inclusion, an adaptation of a graphic novel. Its high ranking somewhat ensures that it is indeed good, but still the fact that it isn’t original isn’t promising. The story follows a soldier in the future who finds himself caught in a time loop after dying on the battlefield. His tactical skills become more concise after each "death". Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) to direct.
999 - Matt Cook. A group of corrupt cops have to shoot a fellow officer in order to get away. How can you not like the sound of that? John Hillcoat to direct, Chris Pine in talks to star.
Margin Call - JC Chandor. Our first produced screenplay! This one stars Kevin Spacey and a gaggle of gifted performers. You’ll be able to see it next year as it premieres at Sundance.
American Bullshit - Eric Warren Singer. Another true story of an FBI sting in the US Congress. This is a perfect example of the unwritten rule of the Black List: if you want your film on it, give its title a little dirty word.
The Last Son of Isaac Lemay - Greg Johnson. An aging outlaw is convinced his children are evil and sets off to kill him. However, his worst fears come to life when he meets his last remaining son. Sounds a lot like Dexter and I’m completely okay with that.
Die in a Gun Fight - Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari. A contemporary take on the Romeo & Juliet tale. This one just had Zac Efron attached to it and has a good chance of getting made.
Imagine - Dan Fogelman. You’ll be seeing this one soon enough with Steve Carell as the son of an aging rockstar discovers the life of his father he never knew existed.
Chronicle - Max Landis. Three teens discovers they have gained superpowers after contact with a mysterious substance in the woods. Things start off all fun and games until they start to turn on each other. Finally! Something not involving politics!
Your Bridesmaid is a Bitch - Brian Duffeld. A guy agrees to be a groomsman for his sister’s wedding only to discover the woman who broke his heart is also a part of the wedding. Why the guy (or the sister for that matter) didn’t see this coming remains to be seen. But again, put a dirty word in your title = recognition.
What Happened To Monday? - Max Botkin. A group of identical septuplets has to investigate the disappearance of one their siblings when the government forces families to only conceive one child due to population overcrowding. The possibilities of this seem amazing and due to the title it seems likely each sibling is named after a day of the week. Go me.
The Butler - Danny Strong. A black butler in the White House services eight US Presidents. Could be Forrest Gump. Could be TMZ. Either way, I’m there.
One Day - David Nicholls. Here’s the official Black List summary, “Dexter and Emma meet for the first time on college graduation day in 1988 and proceed to reunite one day a year for the next 20 years.” Here’s my official reactiong, “Bluuuuurgh.” This one is in post-production with Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess starring. Lone Scherfig (An Education) directs.
Murder of a Cat - Christian Magalhars & Robert Snow. A dark comedy about a guy investigating his cat’s death? Why hasn’t this been made sooner?
Can You Keep A Secret - Megan Martin. A woman spills all of her secrets to the stranger on a rough plane ride. Turns out the stranger is the CEO of her company. This logline actually made me laugh out loud. I really hope it gets made.
Cinema Verite - David Seltzer. “Based on the PBS series ‘An American Family,’ cameras follow a family as they go about their daily life.” I’m sorry, I couldn’t make it through that sentence. I had to copy and paste.
The Girl With Something Extra - Terrence Michael. A girl enters high school and suddenly realizes she’s a boy who has been raised his whole life to believe he is a girl? Talk about an awkward first day of gym class.
Ricky Stanicky - Jeff Bushell. Three childhood friends invent someone to take the blame for all of their shenanigans. Eventually their wives demand to meet this person and they hire and actor to play him. Sounds like a Farrelly Brothers movie and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. James Franco is attached.
Zombie Baby - Andy Jones. You don’t need to know anything other than the title. Trust me.
Boy Scouts Vs. Zombies - Carrie Evans & Emi Mochizuko. Again, no other information necessary.
Prom - Katie Wech. “High school students prepare for their prom.” No, seriously. That is all there is to it.
Fucking Jane Austen - Blake Bruns. Again, use a dirty word, get Black Listed. But this one actually lives up to its title. Two men are pissed at Austen for creating unrealistic expectations about love among women (preach it brothers!) so they get sent back in time. Unfortunately the only way for them to get back is to have Jane Austen fall in love and sleep with one of them.
Paint - Brit McAdams. From the list, “A Bob Ross-esque PBS painting show host must fight for his career when his station brings in a rival painting host.” Stop, you had me a Bob Ross-esque.
Source: Entertainment Weekly
When one thinks of real life couples in movies, names like Tracy & Hepburn and Cruise & Kidman come to mind, as well as a plethora of other pairs. Making headlines today is a lesser known - but no less talented - couple: actress Rachel Weisz & director Darren Aronofsy, who will re-team for the first time since 2006's The Fountain for a biopic of Jackie Kennedy.
The film will chronicle the four days between Kennedy's assassination and his burial, showing the beloved Kennedy at both her most vulnerable and her most graceful, reports Entertainment Weekly. Weisz's fiance, director Aronofsky will direct and produce, along with his producing partner Scott Franklin and their Protozoa Pictures film company.
The project was once rumored to have Steven Spielberg attached as producer when it was being developed as a telefilm for HBO, but it is now known that he is not involved in any way. The script was written Noah Oppenheim.
Steven Spielberg and the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis are linked together in a new project.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Spielberg is selling Jackie, a hot script about the late First Lady that's making the rounds in Hollywood. Noah Oppenheim, a journalist, author and producer on theToday show has written the script.
The story chronicles the days immediately following the assassination of John F. Kennedy from Jackie's point-of-view. Spielberg is on board the project in a producing capacity.
HBO is a lead contender to buy the script and would likely develop it as a film it could air on its network, says the LAT.