By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com June 24, 2011 at 1:18AM
To his credit, Paul Haggis has not used the fact that his coming-out party as director, "Crash" won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, to churn out a series of Oscar-bait films. Instead, the "Due South" creator has mostly stuck to the kind of middlebrow thrillers to which he's suited, ranging from the superior ("In The Valley Of Elah", "Casino Royale") to the ridiculous ("Quantum of Solace," "The Next Three Days").
The writer-director hasn't yet chosen his next project, but has been circling a few, mostly within his comfort zone: a possible remake of "The Equalizer," with Russell Crowe, an Americanization of Spanish hit "Cell 211," and an international romance, "Third Person." Now one more has joined the list, and it promises an extension of the work that Haggis had done of late as the Bond franchise's script doctor of choice.
24 Frames reports that Haggis is in talks to write the first in what Universal are hoping will be a major new spy franchise, based on the character Gabriel Allon, hero of ten novels by best-selling author Daniel Silva. Allon is a former Mossad agent, who led the team that took vengeance on the terrorists behind the murders of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, only for his family to be killed in retribution. A decade later, he's retired, and working as an art restorer in England, before being drawn back into the spy game for a series of adventures, often focusing on the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism.
If the deal closes, Haggis will pen the script, and possibly direct the film, which may draw on the first entry "The Kill Artist" (which involves Allon trying to track down the man who attacked his family), or combine a number of books. Former NBC executive Jeff Zucker is producing, and the studio seems to be using the series as insurance for a new spy franchise, in case Tony Gilroy's "The Bourne Legacy" fails to revive their golden goose.
We're not familiar with the books, but the risk here is that by hiring Haggis, or Captain Obvious as we like to call him, the whole thing could come across as a dumber, less refined version of Steven Spielberg's "Munich." But Haggis did admittedly help to give the James Bond franchise a touch more depth, so we won't dismiss it immediately, and we'd rather see the writer-director tackling something like this than a sprawling multi-character drama about, say, how murder is bad, or how next month is July.