There's a job vacancy at 20th Century Fox, and it's one that needs to be filled pretty urgently. Late last night, it was announced that David Slade, director of "Hard Candy," "30 Days of Night and "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," who'd won the job of helming a reboot of Marvel superhero "Daredevil" for the studio, had left the project, citing a commitment to the pilot of NBC series "Hannibal." Directors leave projects all the time, but what makes this a bit of a problem for Fox is that the clock is ticking on their option on the character, and if a film isn't before cameras before the end of the year, the rights are likely to revert back to Marvel, cutting off a potential cash cow. And so a new director is needed, and needed fast.
For the uninitiated, Daredevil is the alter-ego of Matt Murdock, blinded as a child by radioactive waste, although the rest of his senses are heightened as a result. As an adult, he works as an attorney by day, and dons a red costume as Daredevil, "The Man Without Fear," at night, battling villains including plus-sized crime boss The Kingpin, deadly hitman Bullseye and telekinetic assassin with an identity disorder Typhoid Mary. He was seen on screen a decade ago in Mark Steven Johnson's film, which starred Ben Affleck as the title character, alongside Colin Farrell, Jennifer Garner and Michael Clarke Duncan.
The character can be seen almost as Marvel's equivalent to "Batman" — a relatively grounded hero, fighting crime at the heart of the city, and reinvented by an influential run by Frank Miller in the 1980s, which added real grit. Given the hiring of Slade, and given that Miller's "Born Again" is being used as the source material, we imagine that Fox are after a dark, edgy take on the character, and are looking for a helmer who can do that but also deliver spectacle. More importantly, they have to be available pretty much straight away and willing to either work with the script they already have (which the studio are said to be pleased with). Why? Because if productoin doesn't start by this fall, the studio could find the rights reverting back to Marvel. With all that in mind, we've played recruitment consultant and picked out five names who might be suitable for the job. Check them out below and add your own thoughts in the comments section.
Why He Could Do It: As we said, a "Daredevil" movie could use someone who can handle both grit and scale, and Joe Carnahan seems to fall nicely between those two. The helmer came to fame with his terrific little cop thriller "Narc," and although we can't say we love everything, or indeed anything, that's come since, he has worked on bigger and bigger films since — the actioner "Smokin' Aces," the tentpole "The A-Team" and most recently, the acclaimed sleeper hit "The Grey." He's got style, blockbuster experience and a good feel for street life, which seems to be a good mix for a project like this, and while he's got projects in development, he doesn't have anything immediately ready to go (though his "Death Wish" remake may be close). And while "The A-Team" lost Fox money, he's got "Continue" set up with the studio, so presumably there's no hard feelings there.
Why He Might Not: Carnahan tends to be a writer-director, with credits on all his films to date. Does he have time to retool the existing specs to fit his own interests? Also, he's had bad experiences within the tentpole world before, having been fired off "Mission: Impossible 3" at the last minute, so he might be reluctant to take on a situation where getting it done isn't as important as getting it done right. Plus he's already got a New York vigilante movie in the works with "Death Wish," one that would let him work in the R-rated playground he prefers. Would he risk making that irrelevant by taking on a similar studio project for more dollar but less control?
Why He Could Do It: Like Carnahan, David Ayer has a background in gritty street thrillers, with the added real-life experience of growing up in South Central L.A. and having served in the Navy on a nuclear submarine, so he's not someone to be messed with. And he's shown his credentials in that world a number of times, thanks to scripts for "Training Day," "Harsh Times" and the upcoming "End of Watch," which he's also helming, marking his third directorial effort. But Ayer's also worked with bigger scope, with "The Fast & the Furious" and "S.W.A.T" among his writing credits. He's proven to be a decent, if not inspired, helmer and hopes seem to be high for "End of Watch," which Open Road have made the centerpiece of a Hall H presentation at Comic-Con this weekend. He's been primed for bigger directing gigs for a while, having been linked to remakes of "Commando" and "The Wild Bunch," so he's clearly ready to step up to a bigger budget, while still bringing an authenticity to "Daredevil" that the original decidedly lacked.
Why He Might Not: Well, it's possible he'll be otherwise engaged. He's signed on to the Arnold Schwarzenegger thriller "Ten," which doesn't have a firm start date but its backers might not take kindly to him deferring a year, depending on how strict his contract is. Perhaps more importantly, his work to date has been fairly grounded, and he's generally brought on to projects to add realism. How would he take to a blind man in spandex jumping around rooftops?
Why He Could Do It: Boaz Yakin has had a pretty eclectic career to date. He sold his first screenplay at 19, penned "The Rookie" for director Clint Eastwood at 24, and has since gone on to direct gritty urban dramas, a Jerry Bruckheimer sports movie, heartwarming chick flicks and a Jason Statham actioner. ("Fresh," "Remember The Titans," "Uptown Girls" and "Safe," respectively). What unites them is a good feel for the streets of a city, one that could be invaluable for a "Daredevil" movie. And he's played in the comic book/tentpole world before: he was attached to direct a futuristic "Batman Beyond" movie in the early '00s for Warner Bros., and contributed to the script of "Prince of Persia" more recently. And while it was underseen, "Safe" was arguably Jason Statham's best film to date, and something that in some ways would serve as a good template, tonally, for a "Daredevil" flick. Not the biggest name out there, but a solid choice, and his schedule seems clear right now.
Why He Might Not: Yakin's films have generally been OK, but he hasn't really hit a total home run yet, and he's not the kind of person that would give fans confidence in the way that Josh Trank is with "Fantastic Four." Once again, he's also a writer-director (although more of a chameleon, so less likely than Carnahan and Ayer to want to put his own stamp on it). Plus, his first screen credit was on 1989's Dolph Lundgren-starring "The Punisher" movie, and the thought of the man who wrote that tackling "Daredevil" is likely to give fanboys palpitations.
Why He Could Do It: Judge Dredd has always been seen as one of the trickier comic characters to get right — a faceless, near-fascistic lawman in a futuristic dystopia. But if word out of Comic-Con is to be believed, British filmmaker Pete Travis might have delivered with "Dredd." The violent 3D actioner is picking up strong word of mouth in San Diego, and by comparison, "Daredevil" would be easy for Travis to tackle. A TV director who became a protege of Paul Greengrass when he directed the 'Bourne' helmer's script for "Omagh," Travis moved up to the silver screen with sleeper hit thriller "Vantage Point," which was ludicrous, but saw Travis do a good job in keeping things propulsive. Reviews for "Dredd," including our own, have praised his direction, and he could bring a similarly inventive take on Daredevil's unique attributes. Plus, other than a loose attachment to London-set film noir "City of Tiny Lights," his schedule seems free, so he could start on Monday if required. And "Dredd" does a lot with a relatively meagre budget, which would keep bean-counters at Fox happy.
Why He Might Not: First and foremost, Travis only just finished nearly two years of his life on a comic book movie, and as someone with more serious work in his past, he might want to not immediately repeat the experience. Particularly as "Dredd" was somewhat troubled; rumors did the rounds that Travis was being kept out of the editing room and that writer Alex Garland would be seeking a co-directing credit, although it was later denied. But ultimately, it won over the Comic-Con crowd, but it's got a long way to go before it's a hit, and studios might be wary of hiring Travis until the numbers are in.
Why He Could Do It: With a name like that, Olivier Megaton was clearly destined to be an action director in the same way that people named Pius were destined to become medieval popes. He started off as a graffiti artist before moving into shorts and TV direction in his native France (it should probably go without saying that Megaton, like Pius, is an assumed name…), coming to attention with dark thriller "The Red Siren" in 2002. After that (and a gig as second-unit director on "Hitman") Luc Besson, brought him into his fold, selecting Megaton to helm, in quick succession, "Transporter 3," "Colombiana" and the upcoming "Taken 2," a film which 20th Century Fox have high hopes for. Megaton may not be Mr. Nuanced Character Beats, but he's obviously displayed a facility for action, and is the kind of director who'd be able to jump aboard and take the reins without too much fuss, so the risk of the film being held up is minimal.
Why He Might Not: Again, he's not Mr. Nuanced Character Beats, and for all the scorn they've attracted in recent years, Fox has turned around their approach to their genre properties in recent years for the most part — films like "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" are the model, not something quick and brainless. Taking "Daredevil" to an action-heavy director may not be the best creative direction. However, he is branching out, becoming attached to the dark thriller "Land of Tthe Living" more recently, but that film presents another problem; it's meant to shoot in January. If it's still a going concern, that would rule him out of "Daredevil."
Honorable Mentions: Again, with a limited timeframe to put their stamp, we're not going to see A-listers or auteurs circling. Names like Len Wiseman, Ruben Fleischer, Tomas Alfredson and Daniel Espinosa are all probably too big at this point to take over a film on such short notice. The timeframe also rules out other names who could be possibilites: "The Lincoln Lawyer" helmer Brad Furman could do a great job, but he just started filming on "Runner Runner"; John Moore, Ji-Woon Kim and Christopher McQuarrie would all be good matches, but have movies due at the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013; while Brett Ratner, you'll be glad to know, is meant to shoot "Hercules" later this year.
As for those who could do it, TV director Jack Bender ("Lost") has been looking to move into features for a while (he was attached to the Jack Ryan movie for a while), and is used to working on a tightened schedule, while TV vet Clark Johnson could also be a possibility. For more homegrown names, Jonathan Levine is moving onto bigger canvases and might be available if the long-delayed "Warm Bodies" is ready in time, while Neil Burger is hot after "Limitless," and Gavin O'Connor after "Warrior," though both have many projects circling. William Monahan would be an interesting idea to write the thing, but after "London Boulevard," we'd be reluctant to let him sit in a director's chair again. Walter Hill is on something of a comeback trail, though, and could be an interesting prospect.
And looking overseas, Asger Leth recently made his Hollywood debut, albeit with the coolly received "Man on a Ledge," and Spanish helmer Rodrigo Cortes showed he's a good visual director with "Buried" and "Red Lights." Meanwhile, Morten Tyldum made an attention-grabbing film with "Headhunters," which has put him on Hollywood radars, and Michael R. Roskam ("Bullhead") would be an intriguing, albeit unconventional choice. Could British helmer Michael Bassett, behind "Solomon Kane" and the upcoming "Silent Hill: Revelation," deliver the goods? Or might "The Imposter" helmer Bart Layton follow James Marsh into fiction with a big leap up? There's plenty of prospects, let us know your own thoughts in the comments section below.