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Dreamworks Acquires 'Voices From The Dead,' Spec Script About Houdini and Conan Doyle

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist February 10, 2011 at 3:20AM

With two critically and commercially successful reboots appearing in the past few years, in the form of Guy Ritchie's big-screen actioner and the BBC's superior contemporary reboot, Sherlock Holmes is very much back on the agenda. But his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, has held almost as much fascination to filmmakers in recent years as the great detective himself: Doyle's appeared as a character, often in some kind of investigatory role, in the last decade in films like "Finding Neverland," "Shanghai Knights" and on the BBC mystery show "Murder Rooms," and now we look to be heading towards one more take that suggests that the writer didn't just leave the detecting to his creation.
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With two critically and commercially successful reboots appearing in the past few years, in the form of Guy Ritchie's big-screen actioner and the BBC's superior contemporary reboot, Sherlock Holmes is very much back on the agenda. But his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, has held almost as much fascination to filmmakers in recent years as the great detective himself: Doyle's appeared as a character, often in some kind of investigatory role, in the last decade in films like "Finding Neverland," "Shanghai Knights" and on the BBC mystery show "Murder Rooms," and now we look to be heading towards one more take that suggests that the writer didn't just leave the detecting to his creation.

DreamWorks has picked up a spec script from "Changeling" writer J. Michael Straczynski entitled "Voices From The Dead," which focuses on the real-life friendship between Conan Doyle and legendary illusionist Harry Houdini. The plot, set in the 1920s, will feature the two teaming with a psychic to solve a series of murders in New York City. It's also likely to delve into the arguments the pair had about the supernatural: Houdini was a skeptic, and often used his show to debunk so-called psychics, while Conan Doyle wrote in his book "The Edge of the Unknown" that the magician had actual psychic powers.

Straczynski's become a fairly hot screenwriter in recent years. He came to fame as the creator of cult sci-fi show "Babylon 5," and has been on a number of high-profile projects in the past, including "World War Z," "Silver Surfer," "Forbidden Planet," "Shattered Union" and Vietnam pic "They Marched Into Sunlight," although neither of his produced projects, Clint Eastwood's "Changeling" and James McTeague's "Ninja Assassin," have been particularly good, or indeed any good at all.

Nevertheless, the project could be interesting, if it keeps this side of the ridiculous, and seems to tie into a current trend of literary detectives: Edgar Allan Poe, for instance, is the lead in both "The Raven," where John Cusack plays the author on the trail of a serial killer, and "Poe," a new period procedural that's just gone to pilot at ABC. No cast or director are yet attached to "Voices From The Dead," but we're sure more news will follow soon. [Heat Vision]

This article is related to: Films, Voices From The Dead, J. Michael Straczynski


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