Exclusive: There was talk of a sequel to the Angelina Jolie-led action spy flick, “Salt” — as directed by Phillip Noyce — almost as soon as the picture came out. Was “Salt” successful? The recently released DVD might help determine that final figure, but with a reported budget of $110 million (not including the $30-$40m in P&A), the film only grossed $118 million domestically. Bomb, right? Not quite. The overseas haul — where Jolie is still a bigger draw — amassed to a total just shy of $300 million. That’s not too bad.
But Phillip Noyce won’t be going for an encore, regardless. “Those 3 [alternate] Blu-ray cuts [of the film] represent just about everything I have to offer on Evelyn Salt,” he told Moviehole in a recent interview promoting the DVD. “If there ever is a sequel, better it’s directed by someone with a completely fresh take on what I believe could be a totally entertaining and complex series of stories.”
So that’s that. What is next for Noyce? Well, one option is New Line‘s “Our Wild Life,” based on the life of animal conservationist Dame Daphne Sheldrick. Earlier this year Nick Cassavetes (“The Notebook“) was circling the project — then known as “Peaceable Kingdom” or “Elephant Orphanage” — but he bailed acrimoniously in what resulted in an ugly, still-ongoing lawsuit.
Slightly more tantalizingly, Walter Salles (“The Motorcycle Diaries“) became attached to the project in the spring and Julia Roberts was rumored to have been eyeing the lead. Salles is now off the project and Roberts’ participation never seemed to materialize. Recent reports pegged Kate Winslet as having been offered the lead role, but her reps denied involvement (other actresses said to be interested at one point were Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Drew Barrymore).
While most reps are keeping mum, those from down under for the Aussie director Noyce tell us that he has been in some early preliminary discussions to direct the project, but it seems too early to tell if these talks will turn into a formal attachment. Clearly the project is still in development at New Line and Mandalay, but with three almost-director bites in the last year, maybe they’ll settle on someone soon or Noyce will agree to take on the gig.
Daphne Sheldrick’s story is based in Kenya, and she famously devoted her life to preventing the extinction of elephants. Jeff Stockwell (“The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys“) wrote one of the earlier drafts of the film, but part of the reason Cassavetes sued New Line is that he did a major overhaul of the screenplay, thought he was going to direct and was incensed when they told him his services were no longer needed once he turned in his new draft. So it’s unclear if Stockwell is still involved, though our hunch is that with a lawsuit going on (unless it’s been quietly settled or dropped), Cassavetes’ draft of the script has been frozen and won’t be used. Back to the possible director: frankly, we’d much rather Noyce take on this project as one, it sounds interesting and two, it’s simply not a sequel to a film we didn’t care for at all.