So far, Mark Greaney’s novel The Gray Man has had a tortuous journey toward the silver screen. Way back in 2011, an adaptation by Adam Cozad (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) had achieved inclusion on the Black List – at which point James Grey (The Immigrant) signed on to direct it. By 2012, things were looking up when Brad Pitt began seriously considering the high profile lead role. Grey and Pitt were unable to pull it together, though, and the rights to the property lapsed – leaving the way clear for a new creative team to take a crack at it. Enter powerhouse producers Joe Roth and Palak Patel (Maleficent), who snapped up the rights for Sony Pictures, and quickly sought the agreement of writing-directing team Joe and Anthony Russo to add the project to their ever-growing slate.
The Gray Man is the story of an assassin and former CIA operative, who finds himself having to fight his way across Europe – past special forces teams – in order to save his handler. The source novel is the first in a series of four books, whose subject matter inevitably give rise to comparisons with Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series, and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan stories. In fact, so similar are their styles that author Mark Greaney is credited as co-writer on Tom Clancy’s novels ‘Locked On, ‘Threat Vector’ and ‘Command Authority’. Since his own book is the first of a series, it clearly creates a film property with immediate franchise potential, as highlighted by Joe Roth:
“We think this could be the next Bourne Identity movie series. The Russo brothers are the most dynamic filmmakers working today.”
The question is, does the world really need another Bourne Identity movie series? Do we really need another lone, brooding guy – a predictably ‘handsome’ man with a dangerous edge, but a heart of gold – slinking through stereotypical European cities, dispatching bad guys? The key to making this even slightly relevant – as the talented producers point out – lies with the Russo Brothers. Having cut their teeth on comedy, such as Welcome To Collinwood, Arrested Development and Community, the duo have successfully moved into high quality action movies – most recently ushering Captain America: The Winter Soldier to a massive box office haul.
The brothers are already signed on to helm Captain America 3 – due for release on May 6 2016 – but once they’ve worked their magic on that, it looks like The Gray Man will be next on their hit list. This means that we are going to have to wait some time for any casting announcements, since those decisions won’t be taken until the Russos have completed their first re-working of the script. There’s plenty of time for speculation, then, as to who will next take the mantle of lone, brooding, highly trained, dangerous, good guy. Anthony Mackie, anyone?