It seems as though we’ve been waiting forever (a decade to be exact) for Joe Carnahan to deliver on the promise set forth with 2002’s “Narc.” It’s not that the two films he’s directed since (“Smokin’ Aces,” “The A-Team”) were necessarily bad, but rather that Carnahan seemed to demonstrate with “Narc” that he was capable of much, much more. Of course, the director also spent a fair amount of time developing “Mission: Impossible III,” which was later flipped to J.J. Abrams. It was an unpleasant learning experience Carnahan openly tells The Playlist he quit before he could be fired. Although he says he learned a lot from the ordeal and has no regrets, though it has possibly compelled the director to play things a little safer since.
The Playlist spoke with Carnahan in Los Angeles this past Sunday where the director was promoting his man vs. wild Alaskan thriller “The Grey,” starring Liam Neeson. We’ll have more from our interview with the director of “The Grey” in the coming days, but for now we have some updates on what’s up next for Carnahan.
As we reported Friday, Carnahan has stepped aside on the thriller “Umbra,” which will now be helmed by Martin Campbell, who hopes to wash away memories of “Green Lantern” as soon as possible. Carnahan said it was an amicable parting of ways based on his desire to keep close to home for the time being and focus only on those projects most important to him. “I guess Martin Campbell’s taken over,” Carnahan tells The Playlist. “As much as I loved rewriting ‘Umbra’ and as much as I like that particular story, if it doesn’t, like, beat at the core of my being right now... I spend a lot of time away from my family. If we’d shot ‘Umbra’ in L.A., that might have been a different conversation.”
Over the years, Carnahan has been linked to numerous interesting projects that have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another. Luckily, two of the most intriguing projects (“Killing Pablo,” “White Jazz”) remain on the table and, according to Carnahan, will now receive his full attention until he can get them made.
“I’ve waited so long to make ‘Pablo’ and now I have it kinda greenlit,” says Carnahan. “It’s basically ready to go. We’re going to the casting phase.”
“Pablo” is based on the book by “Black Hawk Down” author Mark Bowden and focuses on the joint efforts of U.S. and Columbian military to hunt down Escobar. Javier Bardem was initially attached to the role but now it looks like rumored casting choice Edgar Ramirez (“Che,” “Bourne Ultimatum”) is top of the pile, though Carnahan remains non-committal. “Edgar’s in the conversation, [but he’s] not 100 percent. There’s a couple other people in the conversation.”
If all goes well, Carnahan hopes to follow “Pablo” with another long-in-development project, an adaptation of James Ellroy’s “White Jazz.” Set in the late 1950s, “Jazz” follows the story of L.A.P.D. Lieutenant and occasional mob enforcer Dave Klein, who finds himself set up as the bait in a major FBI investigation into the rampant corruption of the L.A.P.D.
While Pablo is close, Carnahan admits it’s still a possibility that “Jazz” could go first. “If I had to have a prohibitive #1, it’s Pablo,” says Carnahan. “‘Pablo’ will go first, absolutely. Unless ‘White Jazz’ lands because it’s L.A. and I could do it and sleep in my own bed at night. That might knock ‘Pablo’ out of the top spot.”
Early buzz on “The Grey,” which opens January 27th, has been largely positive. Carnahan hopes to ride that wave of goodwill and focus on time with his family and those projects that mean the most to him personally. “Right now I just want to spend some time with my kids. I just want to be around. If it’s not ‘Pablo’ or ‘White Jazz’ or something that just burns, I don’t have the time.”
Here's an interesting little EPK for "The Grey" in the interim.