While James Gray has become known for this thoughtful, gripping independent dramas, it was just a couple of years ago that he nearly made a splash with a big studio picture, “The Lost City Of Z” with Brad Pitt set to star. Near the end of 2010, Paramount yanked the cord on the project, and Gray left the movie and Pitt went on to work with Andrew Dominik on “Cogan’s Trade.” But it seems both Pitt and Gray stayed in touch. Just a couple of months later in early 2011, Gray signed to direct an adaptation of Mark Greaney‘s thriller “The Gray Man” and by late summer, Pitt had signed on to star. Not much has been heard since, but as Gray tells us, the project is still percolating and may be coming soon.
“That absolutely may happen in a matter of months. It really depends on Brad Pitt’s schedule and it depends on my schedule and how quickly I finish up this current movie and budget and all of those kind of boring factors. But it definitely may happen, and in fact it is more likely than not to happen,” he said. Penned by Adam Cozad (one of the writers on the still developing Jack Ryan reboot for Paramount) the film follows a former CIA operative-turned ultimate assassin, targeted by a powerful multinational corporation, who must fight his way across Europe and past special forces teams from around the world in order to save the life of his handler and the handler’s family. But if this sounds familiar, Gray is aiming to take a fresh approach to the action.
One of the centerpiece sequences in “We Own The Night,” is a rain soaked car chase of sorts, that we see unfold mostly from the perspective of Joaquin Phoenix‘s character as he watches what transpires around him (see the scene below). And that’s something Gray would like to do on this movie, albeit with much more money and tools at his disposal. “I’ve never done that kind of movie before and it certainly is a very enticing thing because what you do is you get to explore a kind of existential action on a scale that you really haven’t been able to pursue before. I mean I started to experiment a little bit with what it is I’d like to do with an action movie [in] ‘We Own the Night,’ particularly with the car chase. I didn’t have a huge amount of resources on ‘We Own the Night.’ I mean that picture was made for $19 million dollars, and I had very little time or money to do the car chase the way I wanted it, in fact I had to truncate quite a bit of it, but I felt that it would survive intact because of the central idea of it which is that you stay inside the car, it’s during a rain storm, etc. So the whole idea was to make it in that style and then hopefully that the budget, the loose threads of the budget wouldn’t show,” Gray explained. “But on a movie like this, you don’t have that issue. You can really expose all of the aspects of an action movie that you want. Who knows? Maybe it won’t be as effective. To have all of the toys at your disposal you use them and it’s not always the right thing. Sometimes to make it work means to choose not to do something. So there is that challenge, but I’d like to have that challenge, it’s a different field to play on.”
The project is set up over at 20th Century Fox with New Regency also on board to produce. For now, Gray is just heading into the editing process on “Low Life” which will keep him tied up for the next few months. But we’d be fascinated to see him take on a studio action movie, because he certainly would be coming at the genre from an entirely different angle. And if it means a shorter wait between pictures, we’re all for that as well.