The first films of screenwriter James Vanderbilt's career were not exactly indicators of great work to come. Killer tooth fairy horror "Darkness Calls?" Botched "Rashomon" riff "Basic"? Dwayne Johnson actioner "The Rundown"? (Which is actually good fun, but not exactly high art). Certainly none suggested that one of the great screenplays of the century so far would come from Vanderbilt, but that's exactly what his script for David Fincher's "Zodiac" is, and it's helped to make him one of the most in-demand writers around.
Off the back of that, and the comic book adaptation "The Losers," Sony picked Vanderbilt to be the man to reinvent their biggest franchise with "The Amazing Spider-Man." And it seems like they're happy with what he's done: not only has the writer already been commissioned to write a sequel, but he's also written scripts for their remakes of "Total Recall" and the "Red Riding" trilogy. As such, the studio seemed like the natural home for his latest script, but that doesn't mean they didn't have to pay through the nose for it.
Variety reports that, after a fierce bidding war, Sony have acquired Vanderbilt's action spec "White House Down" for a cool $3 million, making it the biggest sale for a script so far this year., and one of the biggest of all time. As one might imagine from the title, it's an actioner set in the White House, described as "Die Hard" meets "Air Force One," which places it in remarkably similar territory to "Olympus Has Fallen," the Gerard Butler actioner announced a few weeks ago.
But Vanderbilt is moving outside the studio fold as well, to lend his script polishing skills to another action remake, this time MGM's remake of "Robocop." The film, to be directed by Jose Padilha and star Joel Kinnaman, was originally penned by Josh Zetumer, who also wrote an unused draft of "Dune," and had a polish from "Gran Torino" scribe Nick Schenck. "Robocop" hits theaters on August 9, 2013, while there's no date yet for "White House Down," but we're sure Sony, having spent that kind of money, will be moving forward with the film as soon as they can.