The Green Hornet strikes again!!
Director Gavin O’Connor and Paramount Pictures are teaming to take a new stab at bringing the classic radio hero to the big screen. Deadline is reporting that O’Connor has secured the rights to the character and has teamed with the studio with the hop of launching a new franchise. O’Connor will be working with video game writer Sean O’Keefe in developing the screenplay.
O’Connor, whose last film, The Accountant starring Ben Affleck, is still in theaters, professes to be a Green Hornet fan and told Deadline that he had been wanting to take a shot at bringing the hero to the big screen for some time.
I’ve been wanting to make this movie — and create this franchise — since I’ve wanted to make movies… As a kid, when most of my friends were into Superman and Batman, there was only one superhero who held my interest — The Green Hornet. I always thought he was the baddest badass because he had no superpowers. The Green Hornet was a human superhero. And he didn’t wear a clown costume. And he was a criminal — in the eyes of the law — and in the eyes of the criminal world. So all this felt real to me. Imagine climbing to the top of the Himalayas, or Mount Everest, or K2 over and over again and no one ever knew? You can never tell anybody. That’s the life of Britt and Kato. What they do, they can never say. They don’t take credit for anything.
Created in 1936 by George W Trendle and Fran Striker, the Green Hornet was the secret identity of crusading newspaper publisher Britt Reid. Together with his valet Kato, whose ethnicity fluctuated depending on whether or not we were at war with Japan at the time, Reid masqueraded as a masked criminal in order to infiltrate and bring down crime mobs. Striker was the creator of the popular The Lone Ranger western radio series and eventually linked toe two by making Reid the Ranger’s grand-nephew.
The Green Hornet first made the transition to the silver screen in 1940 in the first of two Saturday morning matinee serials. While Van Williams starred as Reid/the Green Hornet in the 1966/67 TV adaption of the hero, it was Bruce Lee as Kato who really stood out. In the 1990s, George Clooney almost took on the role for a film at Universal until Steven Spielberg convinced the actor to instead take the lead in 1997’s The Peacemaker, the first film from Spielberg’s Dreamworks studio. After a brief stay at Miramax, where Kevin Smith took a swing at developing the film, the film rights eventually landed at Sony, which produced the disappointing 2011 film which starred Seth Rogen.
O’Connor states that he has been bidding his time, waiting for the rights to become available to make his vision of the charactr. And over that time, he has put a lot of thought into exactly what he wants to do.
For almost 20 years now I’ve been tracking the rights, watching from the sidelines as they were optioned by one studio or another. When I discovered the rights were available again, I tracked them down, partnered with Peter Chernin and we set the movie up at Paramount. With the rights now in our loving hands, I’m beyond excited to bring The Green Hornet into the 21st century in a meaningful and relevant way; modernizing it and making it accessible to a whole new generation. My intention is to bring a gravitas to The Green Hornet that wipes away the camp and kitsch of the previous iteration. I want to re-mythologize The Green Hornet in a contemporary context, with an emphasis on story and character, while at the same time, incorporating themes that speak to my heart. The comic book movie is the genre of our time. How do we look at it differently? How do we create a distinctive film experience that tells itself differently than other comic book movies? How do we land comfortably at the divide between art and industry? How do we go deeper, prompt more emotion? How do we put a beating heart into the character that was never done before?
When we meet Britt Reid he’s lost faith in the system. Lost faith in service. In institutions. If that’s the way the world works, that’s what the world’s going to get. He’s a man at war with himself. A secret war of self that’s connected to the absence of his father. It’s the dragon that’s lived with him that he needs to slay. And the journey he goes on to become The Green Hornet is the dramatization of it, and becomes Britt’s true self. I think of this film as Batman upside down meets Bourne inside out by way of Chris Kyle [American Sniper]. He’s the anti-Bruce Wayne. His struggle: Is he a savior or a destroyer? Britt made money doing bad things, but moving forward he’s making no money doing good things. He must realize his destiny as a protector and force of justice by becoming the last thing he thought he’d ever become: his father’s son. Which makes him a modern Hamlet. By uncovering his past, and the truth of his father, Britt unlocks the future.
Of course, the radio series never had the means to delve deep into the character’s psychology in the way that O’Connor seems interested in doing. It is possible that this version could be a hard swing of the pendulum away from the comedic tone attempted in the Rogen film. But is that a good idea? I tend to think not. The series was pulpy adventure – not too campy, not too deeply introspective. The tone here is a tricky one to capture and hopefully O’Connor will be able to capture it.