When he walked off pre-production of Universal Pictures’ $100 million dollar production The Wolf Man, speculation as to who would replace Mark Romanek in the director’s chair began swirling almost before the door closed behind him. Harry Knowles at AintItCool made an impassioned plea to the Powers That Be to NOT hire Brett Ratner for the project. (I’d go one further and request that Ratner not be hired for any project ever again.) Cinematical reported that American Werewolf In Lodon director John Landis was on the shortlist of possible replacements. Cloverfield director Matt Reeves name was also reportedly in the mix, not doubt due to his current box-office noteriety.
But now Variety is reportinng that the new man behind the camera will be Joe Johnston. An interesting choice, Johnston has a background in visual effects, having won an Academy Award for a little known movie called Raiders Of The Lost Ark. While his most recent directorial effort, the period adventure piece Hidalgo, flopped at the box office, he has also directed the underrated drama October Sky as well as the fan favorites The Rocketeer and Jurassic Park III.
Personally, I’d classify Johnston as a journeyman director, someone who delivers a technically proficient film that can entertain, but one who lacks a clear directorial style, a visual stamp where one can look at just a short moment of his work and be able to identify it. And I say this even with The Rocketeer being a personal favorite film. He’s a safe choice for Universal to go with, just not a particularly interesting or exciting choice.
There also remains the fact that Romanek left the project due to “creative differences.” Is there a problem with Andrew Kevin Walker’s script that he felt needed addressing before production started, but couldn’t be due to the ongoing Writers Guild strike? Considering that he has been working on developing the project with star Benicio Del Toro for about two years, I’m inclined to think that perhaps he was requesting more money that the studio was reticent to kick out.
Filming on The Wolf Man, which stars Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt, was scheduled to begin on February 18th. There has been no word as to whether that date is still firm or will be pushed back to allow Johnston to come up to full steam.