This is semi-ironic: After Gary Ross left the Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire — possibly in an effort to “reinvent himself with each new film” — Francis Lawrence was soon brought aboard. And, for months, the I Am Legend helmer had already been trying to develop a new directorial project of his own — a Houdini biopic being chief among them. So, what will Gary Ross probably follow-up The Hunger Games with?
Well, not the same project. Lawrence had been working with Scott Frank on an untitled romantic drama, but THR says Ross is in talks to adapt William Kalush and Larry Sloman‘s semi-biography, The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero. In this book, it’s alleged that the world’s greatest magician worked for British intelligence, the American secret service, and also acted as a police informant — even though none of these things have ever been concretely proven. And it’s with this set-up that Summit Entertainment (and, I suppose, Lionsgate) hope to establish a franchise that recalls the days of Indiana Jones. Ross just so happens to be the man for the job.
They’re working on a slightly hokey idea, though playing with a historical figure and giving him a little adventure — one that will, hopefully, take advantage of his own skills — isn’t bad on the whole; it’s about where you take it. While this hasn’t been confirmed as Ross‘ next project, a dearth of news on what he’s doing next and, more importantly, a completed screenplay from Noah Oppenheim make me think this is coming up soon.
You can read a full synopsis of the book below (via Amazon):
“Handcuff King. Escape Artist. International Superstar. Since his death eighty years ago, Harry Houdini’s life has been chronicled in books, in film, and on television. Now, in this groundbreaking biography, renowned magic expert William Kalush and bestselling writer Larry Sloman team up to find the man behind the myth. Drawing from millions of pages of research, they describe in vivid detail the passions that drove Houdini to perform ever-more-dangerous feats, his secret life as a spy, and a pernicious plot to subvert his legacy.
The Secret Life of Houdini traces the arc of the master magician’s life from desperate poverty to worldwide fame — his legacy later threatened by a group of fanatical Spiritualists led by esteemed British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Initiating the reader along the way into the arcane world of professional magic, Kalush and Sloman decode a life based on deception, providing an intimate and riveting portrayal of Houdini, the man and the legend.”
Is a revisionist history the right path for Houdini? What do you make of this project from the outset?