When John Lee Hancock’s crime thriller The Little Things premiered simultaneously on the big screen and HBO Max last month, the majority of reviews pegged it as an old school throwback straight out of the 90s that was more than a little reminiscent of David Fincher’s Se7en.
The story following two dogged cops on the hunt for a serial killer may have been a period piece, but The Little Things is set exactly when Hancock first wrote the script, it just took the better part of 30 years to bring it to life. The project had been stuck in development hell for so long and been through so many false starts that the filmmaker decided that the best way to do it justice was to direct it himself, and after helming The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks and The Founder among others, Hancock finally had the clout to do so.
In a recent interview, though, the 64 year-old revealed that Steven Spielberg came quite close came to tackling The Little Things, but he was put off the dark nature of the story having just completed Schindler’s List, which did win him Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, but had also left him exhausted mentally.
“Steven really liked A Perfect World, my script for it. And so before we ever went into production on A Perfect World, he came to me and said, ‘Let’s do a blind picture deal. Let’s just do it at Warner Brothers. Something for you to write and meet to direct’. So we started pitching ideas back and forth. I came up on this one, I can’t remember exactly when, and fell in love with it. The twists and turns. I wrote a long outline and then talked to him on the phone about it after he read it. And I think I faxed him the outline. He really liked it. He said, ‘This is really, really good storytelling. It’s just too dark for me right now. I’m finishing Schindler’s List. I can’t live in this dark world again’. And I understood that completely.”
Other names attached to direct The Little Things over the years include Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood and Danny DeVito, all three of whom could have done a solid job with the material based on their track records behind the camera. Hancock’s version may have topped the domestic box office for two weeks, but it’s an ultimately derivative and forgettable entry in a genre that’s seen plenty of better efforts in the 30 years since he first came up with the concept.