By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist July 12, 2012 at 7:30AM
After making one of the most impressive debuts of last year with "Attack the Block," British writer-director Joe Cornish has smartly been taking his time to pick a follow-up. He's been courted by big, megabudget Hollywood projects, including "A Good Day to Die Hard" and "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," but while taking meetings, has mostly ruled them out, telling us last year of the "Die Hard" sequel: "Ultimately I think it would have been too big a step to take. Some directors do do it. That guy Rupert Wyatt made a very low budget movie called 'The Escapist' and then he took on 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' and did an amazing job. But he's a braver man than me."
Instead, he's been marching to the beat of his own drum, setting up an adaptation of beloved cyberpunk novel "Snow Crash" at Paramount, as well as continuing to work with regular collaborator Edgar Wright on the script for Marvel's "Ant-Man." But at long last, we have a project that looks like it could be the director's next, and it's looking terribly promising.
Both Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter bring news that Cornish has signed on to direct "Rust," an adaptation of last year's graphic novel by Royden Lepp, for 20th Century Fox. Drawing comparisons with "E.T." and "The Iron Giant," it's a family sci-fi adventure set in a world devestated by a war partially fought by man-made robots. Years after, a young man, Roman, tries to keep the family farm going in the absence of his father, only to find his life interrupted when a giant war robot arrives, chasing a boy with a jetpack.
The studio picked up the property almost exactly a year ago ahead of its publication, and the somewhat unlikely choice of Aline Brosh McKenna ("The Devil Wears Prada," "We Bought A Zoo") has been working on the script ever since, and she'll also co-produce alongside Simon Kinberg ("X-Men: First Class," "Elysium"). We assume that Cornish might take a pass on the script too, but either way, it's now a priority for the studio, and looks likely to be the director's next picture -- and should be a smart stopgap for Cornish, letting him work on a bigger scope and budget, with more effects, without yet breaking the bank.
We downloaded Lepp's first book in the series, "Rust: Visitor In The Field" (four are planned altogether, with the second, "Secrets Of The Cell," due for release in the fall) this morning, and blasted through it, and it's a very strong piece of work. The tone is more melancholy than you might expect; somewhere between Spielberg and Jeff Nichols, and we think it's a very good fit for Cornish's sensibilities, even though it'll be a different beast entirely. The plot is only just getting started at the end of the book (lots of intriguing mysteries and relationships are set up), so we assume McKenna's been working on an outline for the broader storyline, or has been able to go off on her own tangents.
Anyway, between the material and Cornish's involvement, this has gone from a project that was totally off our radars to something we'll be keeping a firm eye on. Unless something else comes up, it sounds like the plan is for the film to be ahead of cameras next year, probably for a 2014 release. And there could be more Cornish-related news to come in the next few days; he's been working on the script for "Ant-Man," and it's been heavily rumored that an announcement on that film could be on the way at the Marvel panel at Comic-Con on Saturday. Edgar Wright cancelled an appearance at the Latitude Festival in the U.K. that was due to take place on Sunday; could it be because he'll be in San Diego the day before? Keep your eyes peeled here to see if anything comes of it.