As obsessed as Hollywood is with comic book superheroes, the interchangeable vampire/zombie fad, fairytale re-imagninings and remakes of anything remotely marketable – there’s also the figure of famed illusionist and showman Harry Houdini who has been the subject of several high-profile and seemingly never-ending development deals over the past few years.
Right now, Noah Oppenheim has a thriller titled The Secret Life of Houdini setup at Summit that will focus on the rumour that the escape artist would moonlight as a British government spy in what would be a secret agent, James Bond/Sherlock Holmes type film - and also last month writer J. Michael Staczysnski was tasked with writing Voices From The Dead, a movie that will team Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini as a dysfunctional crime-fighting duo, one which believes in the spirtualism and one who strives to debunk it!
But now Sony are attempting to bring a much more conventional Houdini movie to the big screen, and ironically with a director whose CGI, action filled blockbuster releases would surely be more suited to the projects above.
Variety say that Constantine and I Am Legend director Francis Lawrence is in talks with Sony to bring a high-profile biopic of Houdini to the big screen that will be produced by Jimmy Miller, a guy behind the Sony comedies The Other Guys and the upcoming Bad Teacher. No other details are known except that it’ll be a different film from the one that Paul Verhoeven was tasked to make at Sony in the 90′s that ultimately went unrealised and presumably they don’t yet have a script in place yet.
For my money a more straight laced biopic is far more interesting than the ‘what if’s’ and incendinary parts of Houdini’s life – his accolades as an escape artist and illusionist are jam-packed and fascinating enough without all the speculative parts. And with Hugh Jackman already set to play the legendary figure on stage in the coming years, now’s the perfect time to get the actor signed up to this… which would be a perfect matching of star and material… though I still have doubts over Lawrence being the right man to realise the potential of this project.
His next film is Water For Elephants, a phony looking drama that opens in May. Someone with chops for directing character pieces, perhaps Bennett Miller (Capote) would be more suited.
This article was first posted on March 24, 2011