By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com July 12, 2012 at 2:55PM
There's a job vacancy at 20th Century Fox, and it's one that needs to be filled pretty urgently. Late last night, it was announced that David Slade, director of "Hard Candy," "30 Days of Night and "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," who'd won the job of helming a reboot of Marvel superhero "Daredevil" for the studio, had left the project, citing a commitment to the pilot of NBC series "Hannibal." Directors leave projects all the time, but what makes this a bit of a problem for Fox is that the clock is ticking on their option on the character, and if a film isn't before cameras before the end of the year, the rights are likely to revert back to Marvel, cutting off a potential cash cow. And so a new director is needed, and needed fast.
For the uninitiated, Daredevil is the alter-ego of Matt Murdock, blinded as a child by radioactive waste, although the rest of his senses are heightened as a result. As an adult, he works as an attorney by day, and dons a red costume as Daredevil, "The Man Without Fear," at night, battling villains including plus-sized crime boss The Kingpin, deadly hitman Bullseye and telekinetic assassin with an identity disorder Typhoid Mary. He was seen on screen a decade ago in Mark Steven Johnson's film, which starred Ben Affleck as the title character, alongside Colin Farrell, Jennifer Garner and Michael Clarke Duncan.
The character can be seen almost as Marvel's equivalent to "Batman" -- a relatively grounded hero, fighting crime at the heart of the city, and reinvented by an influential run by Frank Miller in the 1980s, which added real grit. Given the hiring of Slade, and given that Miller's "Born Again" is being used as the source material, we imagine that Fox are after a dark, edgy take on the character, and are looking for a helmer who can do that but also deliver spectacle. More importantly, they have to be available pretty much straight away and willing to either work with the script they already have (which the studio are said to be pleased with). Why? Because if productoin doesn't start by this fall, the studio could find the rights reverting back to Marvel. With all that in mind, we've played recruitment consultant and picked out five names who might be suitable for the job. Check them out below and add your own thoughts in the comments section.
Why He Could Do It: As we said, a "Daredevil" movie could use someone who can handle both grit and scale, and Joe Carnahan seems to fall nicely between those two. The helmer came to fame with his terrific little cop thriller "Narc," and although we can't say we love everything, or indeed anything, that's come since, he has worked on bigger and bigger films since -- the actioner "Smokin' Aces," the tentpole "The A-Team" and most recently, the acclaimed sleeper hit "The Grey." He's got style, blockbuster experience and a good feel for street life, which seems to be a good mix for a project like this, and while he's got projects in development, he doesn't have anything immediately ready to go (though his "Death Wish" remake may be close). And while "The A-Team" lost Fox money, he's got "Continue" set up with the studio, so presumably there's no hard feelings there.
Why He Might Not: Carnahan tends to be a writer-director, with credits on all his films to date. Does he have time to retool the existing specs to fit his own interests? Also, he's had bad experiences within the tentpole world before, having been fired off "Mission: Impossible 3" at the last minute, so he might be reluctant to take on a situation where getting it done isn't as important as getting it done right. Plus he's already got a New York vigilante movie in the works with "Death Wish," one that would let him work in the R-rated playground he prefers. Would he risk making that irrelevant by taking on a similar studio project for more dollar but less control?
Why He Could Do It: Like Carnahan, David Ayer has a background in gritty street thrillers, with the added real-life experience of growing up in South Central L.A. and having served in the Navy on a nuclear submarine, so he's not someone to be messed with. And he's shown his credentials in that world a number of times, thanks to scripts for "Training Day," "Harsh Times" and the upcoming "End of Watch," which he's also helming, marking his third directorial effort. But Ayer's also worked with bigger scope, with "The Fast & the Furious" and "S.W.A.T" among his writing credits. He's proven to be a decent, if not inspired, helmer and hopes seem to be high for "End of Watch," which Open Road have made the centerpiece of a Hall H presentation at Comic-Con this weekend. He's been primed for bigger directing gigs for a while, having been linked to remakes of "Commando" and "The Wild Bunch," so he's clearly ready to step up to a bigger budget, while still bringing an authenticity to "Daredevil" that the original decidedly lacked.
Why He Might Not: Well, it's possible he'll be otherwise engaged. He's signed on to the Arnold Schwarzenegger thriller "Ten," which doesn't have a firm start date but its backers might not take kindly to him deferring a year, depending on how strict his contract is. Perhaps more importantly, his work to date has been fairly grounded, and he's generally brought on to projects to add realism. How would he take to a blind man in spandex jumping around rooftops?