Cary Fukunaga is one of the most exciting directing talents to come along in the last few years. The 34-year-old filmmaker made a storming debut at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival with the gripping immigration thriller "Sin Nombre," and then took a severe left turn last year with the costume drama "Jane Eyre," which managed to make a much-adapted tale feel genuinely fresh, as well as demonstrating the young director's impressive versatility.
And his dance card shows he refuses to pegged into any one genre. Among the many projects he's had in development are: an untitled time-travel drama at Universal; a long-developing adaptation of the African child soldier novel "Beasts of No Nation"; a musical with Beirut frontman Zach Condon and Final Fantasy/Arcade Fire strings supremo Owen Pallett; and most recently, the Gore Verbinski-produced sci-fi thriller "Spaceless." He was even briefly courted for "The Wolverine" after Darren Aronofsky dropped out of the superhero pic.
We'd assumed that "Spaceless" was in the lead to be his next project, after Verbinski told us last month that Fukunaga was rewriting the script and starting to put a budget together, but it looks as if another of the filmmaker's many projects may come first. The director sat down with the Financial Times to promote the DVD release of "Jane Eyre" in the U.K. today, and revealed that his next project is the Civil War heist film he's been attached to write and direct since last May, a film that, it seems, is taking another look at an incident that inspired a true classic of silent cinema.
Fukunaga tells the paper that, "It is a version of Buster Keaton's 'The General,' which was based on a real train heist, but told from the Yankee side." The film, set up at Focus Features (who were behind "Jane Eyre,") has the working title of "No Blood, No Guts, No Glory," and follows the real-life Great Locomotive Chase, where a spy and 20 Union soldiers stole a Confederate train, and managed to wreck crucial railroads and telegraph wires along the way.
And if nothing else, Fukunaga's interest in history should bring the same attention to detail that he brought to "Jane Eyre," the director telling the FT that, "I was a big history buff as a teenager. I have watched a lot of the movies and never been entirely satisfied. They always felt wrong, either in historical detail or even texturally. You would see this cheap wardrobe that looked like it had come straight out of a warehouse.. I used to do civil war re-enacting between the ages of 15 and 19. I was part of a unit that was considered very authentic. We would source the right wools, the right buttons for the costumes. We had the right look."
Lesson learned? As much fun as it is to make fun of civil war re-enacters, some of them grow up to be incredibly talented film directors. But don't expect this to be a dry historical tale, either. We interviewed Fukunaga in December, and while he told us at the time that the film wasn't likely to be his next, he also added "It's a really fun script, it's more like an 'Inglourious Basterds' version of the Civil War, rather than a realistic portrayal." There's no word on casting yet, or as to when the film will get before cameras, but whenever that does happen, we'll have all eyes on it. And for some fun, here's "The General" below.