At one time, "The Green Hornet" looked very different. Seth Rogen was still on board in the lead, crime-fighting role but Stephen Chow, the star of "Kung Fu Hustle" was signed up to direct and play Kato and Nicolas Cage was in talks for the villain. He eventually walked from the part and at the time, gave a very sober account of an actor struggling to ensure the integrity of the character he was looking to play. Interesting coming from the guy with "Season of the Witch" now in theaters, but anyway....
“ 'Green Hornet' was something I wanted to do. I think Michel Gondry is very talented and I had hoped it would work. But I think Seth Rogen and Michel had a different direction for the character tonally than the way I wanted to go," he told Canadian press. "I wasn't interested in just being a straight-up bad guy who was killing people willy-nilly. I had to have some humanity and try to give it something where you could understand why the character was the way he was. But there wasn't enough time to develop it." But to hear director Michel Gondry now tell it, Nic Cage had some pretty wild ideas for what he wanted to do with the character.
Talking with the New York Times, Michel Gondry reveals that Cage wanted the character to have a Jamaican accent (amazing) but obviously that decision caused some clashes. “I was quite relieved when he announced he no longer wanted the part,” Gondry said. Christoph Waltz ended up snagging the role of Chudnofsky, the bad guy who is also in the midst of a mid-life crisis. But that's not the only bit of intriguing development trivia surrounding the film.
“Stephen wanted Kato to implant a microchip in Britt’s brain and control him with a joystick,” Rogen said about the director first on board the project. “Maybe they’re doing that in China, and I’m not aware of it. I don’t read the newspapers as much as I should.” But that's just the tip of the iceberg for the comic franchise that went through a variety of versions since Gondry signed on in 1997.
Mark Wahlberg was initially offered the lead while the director's personal choice was Vince Vaughn as Britt Reid; Jason Scott Lee ("Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story") was slotted for Kato. In the first version of the film that had a script by Edward Neumeier ("Robocop") the villain ate human hearts, swallowed a pacemaker and met his end via a microwave. “The studio said it had ‘creative differences’ with us, so the film was shelved," Gondry said.
The project was kicked back to life in 2004 with Kevin Smith attached to write and direct and Jake Gyllenhaal eyed for the lead. But Smith's version, which featured a female Kato, never got off the ground and eventually hit in the form of a graphic novel. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg jumped on the film in 2007 and after Chow didn't work out in the director's chair, the project fell back in Gondry's lap.
With the film boasting an expensive $130 million budget (not counting the dollars spent marketing the picture), it's no surprise that even earlier incarnations of the project had mega-watt stars like Eddie Murphy and George Clooney interested. But Seth Rogen, outside of Apatow-produced pictures, is a bit of an untested element. That said, test screenings have apparently gone well, screenings of the film for the geek community have generated some decent buzz, newer trailers have played much better and despite Gondry calling fanboys "fascists," with weak January selections at the box office, the film could prove to be a surprise smash.
Guess we'll find out if a Rastafarian Nic Cage would've helped or hurt "The Green Hornet" when it opens on Friday.