By Edward Davis | The Playlist January 12, 2011 at 5:15AM
"The Green Hornet" Finally Arrives On Screen... What A Long Strange Trip It's Been; Greg Kinnear, Jet Li and Jason Scott Lee Were All Once Attached
Here's a major understatement: the life of "The Green Hornet" feature film adaptation has been a long and drawn out process. In the most recent issue of EW (not online), producer Neal Moritz said, "It's certainly been a tumultuous road." Now the film has finally arrived thanks to Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Michel Gondry and Sony and well... you've probably read our review by now, but it hasn't been easy.
"The Green Hornet" seems like it's been in development forever. Even in 1992 its rights were "in limbo," though Universal managed to scoop up rights later that year. Chuck Pfarrer ("Barbed Wire") was hired to write the screenplay and finished it in 1993. Apparently it was fast tracked at Uni and George Clooney then signed on to play the Hornet, as the production moved closer to being made, he then vacated the role to take on "Batman & Robin" instead (we assume he'll never touch a super hero film again and rightly so). With Clooney gone, Greg Kinnear was set to grab the role (no seriously) with Jason Scott Lee ("Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story") as his Kato (can you imagine?). Then 1997 rolls around and Michel Gondry is hired to direct the project. One of his big inspirations was "Superman III" (in retrospect, even that wacky thought that would have been a good idea). Mark Wahlberg is offered the role in October of 1997 and Gondry rewrites the script with Edward Neumeier ("Starship Troopers"), but a year and a half later the project is shelved.
Now in 2000, producers Lawrence Gordon (the guy at the center of the "Watchmen," Fox/WB turnaround fiasco of 2008) and Lloyd Levin get Jet Li to star as Kato for too much fucking money ($5 million plus some gross). Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects") is somehow roped into writing a new draft of the script. Uni spends $10 million in development and then gives up by placing the project in turnaround; Miramax are the bidding war winners. Enter Harvey Weinstein. A lot of nothing goes on until early 2004 when Kevin Smith is asked to write and direct. Offers are put out to Jake Gyllenhaal to star shortly thereafter. 2006 rolls around and Smith is no longer on board (a reboot/remake of "Fletch" is also abandoned around the same time). Neal H. Moritz scoops up the rights in 2007 via his Sony-based production company.
Here's where your memory probably starts to kick in. Thanks to "Superbad" (2007), Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg become white hot. Their agents start to tell them about open properties and mention that Sony is looking for pitches for "The Green Hornet." They're hooked and are eager to make a super hero "buddy picture." Fall 2008, Stephen Chow ("Kung Fu Hustle") is hired to direct; a June 25, 2010 release date is announced. The team, Rogen/Goldberg and Chow, start to butt heads creatively -- Goldberg himself told us he wanted "too much control" as he was already a huge star overseas. Early 2009, Michel Gondry comes back on as director and it's come full circle. Chow is expected to stay on as Kato, but in the summer of 2009 he bails because of "scheduling conflicts" (emphasis on quotes) and Taiwanese actor and singer Jay Chou is hired a month later. The date is now pushed a month to July 9, 2010. Casting begins and Nicolas Cage begins early discussions to take the villain role, but eventually he bails when Gondry doesn't like Cage's idea to play the role in a Jamaican accent for unknown reasons. Gondry is "relieved" when Cage drops out of the picture. Christoph Waltz makes the decision to follow-up an Academy Award-winning performance by accepting the antagonist role in the picture; an insecure character that throws quiet tantrums when people refuse to listen to his terrible ideas and or mock his bad suits. The date is then moved to December 22, 2010, only to change to January 14, 2011 to allow for 3D post-conversion -- an idea everyone claims they wanted to do way back when, but apparently it was forgotten by the time they started shooting.
January 14, 2011, "The Green Hornet" hits theaters. Whether it will be a financial or critical bomb remains to be seen (reviews were just released), but we're already suggesting they might want to forget those sequel ideas.