It appears Lionsgate is finally moving forward with their long-gestating Harry Houdini movie. Producer Frank Marshall (Gremlins, Back to the Future) is stewarding the project which will present Houdini as an adventurer, master of magic, and an investigator of the occult. Instead of producing a standard biopic, Lionsgate aims is to create a swashbuckling version of the character in the mould of Indiana Jones.
The film has been spinning its wheels in development hell since 2009, now looks as though it’s gaining some traction. Lionsgate’s people are in talks to sign a hot young director with a couple of 2016’s most buzzworthy genre releases under his belt.
Deadline is reporting that the studio is in discussions with 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg about directing the project. Lionsgate is basing their version of history’s most iconic magician on William Kalush and Larry Sloman’s 2006 book, The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero. Noah Oppenheim, fresh off of a scripting prize for Jackie at the Venice Film Festival, is penning the script.
Based on the names attached to the project over the years, it’s evident that Lionsgate has high hopes for a potential Houdini franchise. Since 2009, directors Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest), Gary Ross (The Hunger Games), and Joe Wright (Atonement) have each flirted with coming on board. Most notably, back in 2014, Johnny Depp was in the running to play the film’s lead.
One thing that bodes well for this project is Hollywood’s love of following popular trends. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — which also prominently features magic and takes place in a bygone era — is currently having an exceptional box office run. Factor in the runaway success of November’s other mysticism-based movie, Doctor Strange, and it makes sense why Lionsgate’s execs would want to get a Houdini film in theatres as soon as possible.
Bringing Trachtenberg on to helm the picture looks like a solid fit. Although his filmography as a director doesn’t run deep, he has shown a preference for choosing genre material as well as a knack for crafting well-executed films. Trachtenberg joining the project would fall in line with Hollywood’s current trend of handing over big-budget franchises to up-and-coming directors. With a veteran producer like Marshall on board offering guidance, the production looks like an ideal assignment for a young director with Trachtenberg’s particular skill set.
Although this project has elements to get excited over, there are justifications for the production’s numerous false starts. Over the past several years there have been multiple failed attempts at bringing audiences stories about Houdini. Two recent miniseries, 2016’s Houdini & Doyle and 2014’s Houdini (starring Adrian Brody) both failed to connect with viewers. As such, no one looking forward to seeing this iteration of Houdini on the silver screen should get their hopes up until a director and cast finally sign on the dotted line.
Screen Rant will keep you updated on the upcoming Harry Houdini film as development continues.