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Exclusive: ‘I Am Number Four’ Director D.J. Caruso Hoping To ‘Beat The Reaper’ At Fox

Exclusive: 'I Am Number Four' Director D.J. Caruso Hoping To 'Beat The Reaper' At Fox

Updated: Well, it looks as per Mr. Caruso’s own comments below, that he spoke out of turn. We’ve spoke to management and agents for the actor and while management confirms that Caruso has met with Appian Way and Leonardo DiCaprio and management has spoken to Fox about the project, no directorial deal or even development deal is in place yet. Let’s place this under something that everyone hopes will happen in the future if all parties see eye to eye.

Next weekend sees the release of the big new DreamWorks franchise kick-starter “I Am Number Four,” a kind of sci-fi version of “Twilight” with way cooler monsters. (You can read our complete thoughts next week.) The movie was directed by D.J. Caruso, who got his start on the low budget Frank Darabont-scripted cable movie “Black Cat Run” and has since risen to become Steven Spielberg‘s go-to guy, directing a succession of slick, expensive genre films in the form of “Disturbia,” “Eagle Eye,” and now “I Am Number Four” (which is easily his biggest film to date and a job he got after Michael Bay left to go direct “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” instead — not too shabby being Michael Bay’s alternate).

But those of us who remember Caruso’s wonderful debut feature, 2002’s “The Salton Sea” (it was kind of a sleazy, meth-head version of “Memento“), will be thrilled to hear what his next project is: an adaptation of Josh Bazell‘s whip smart debut novel “Beat the Reaper” for 20th Century Fox.

We just talked to the filmmaker, who sounds thrilled to be back in his “Salton Sea” wheelhouse, and who says that right now they’re trying to figure out if Leonardo DiCaprio, who is producing the film under his Appian Way banner, will be available to star, too. If all goes through, DiCaprio would play the role of a former mobster who, after years in witness relocation, has become a doctor. But, as these things happen, his old life catches up with him and it’s a race against the clock as he tries to cover up his old life while saving his own ass from the goon squad that previously thought him dead.

The script was written by the “Ocean’s Thirteen“/”Solitary Man” pair of Brian Koppelman and David Levien (who is also a mystery novelist, he writes his books on his commute from Connecticut to New York). When we asked about being attached to two potential franchises, since the adventures of the morally nebulous Dr. Brown in “Beat The Reaper” are said to continue in future books (we talked to the author around the time the ‘Reaper’ paperback came out), Caruso told us that the novel was originally optioned as a television series, but makes a much better movie.

Caruso also told us a little about the ending [spoiler warning here, folks, if you haven’t read the book, back up], assuring us that the book’s grisly finale will be very much intact in the film.

“I Am Number Four” opens next weekend. Josh Bazell’s outstanding novel “Beat the Reaper” is on bookshelves now. Seriously. Everyone should buy two copies. It’s that good.

The Playlist: So what’s next? If “I Am Number Four” is a hit will you go right into the sequel?
D.J. Caruso: I’m developing something over at Fox, which is a really cool drama. I wouldn’t say it’s returning closer to “The Salton Sea,” but it’s a really cool, dark drama with a little bit of comic darkness. It’s going to be a lower budget movie but I’ve got to get some of that stuff out of my system, because it’s been building up for a couple of years. So once I do that, we’ll see what happens. By then we’ll probably know whether or not this movie will have a sequel, and we’ll go from there. But that’s the one project. It’s called “Beat the Reaper.”

Based on the novel?
Yeah, from the book.

Oh wow, That was one of our favorite debut novels of the past few years.
Yeah, it’s just phenomenal. Leo snapped it up and they [Brian and David] wrote the first draft. And it’s a very, very, very good first draft. So I’m going in with Fox and we’re talking about what to do, if it’s going to be Leo or not going to be Leo, since he’s so busy. But he’s definitely going to produce it.

Are you going to keep the climax the way it was?
The climax is pretty freakin’ crazy, but you kind of have to keep it in, you know what I mean? As outrageous as it is, you’ve got to keep it. And it’s in the script. It’s pretty nutty. It’s hard to read, so it’s going to be really hard to watch, too.

Well this could be another potential sequel, right? When we talked to Bazell, he said that the character would return.
You know what’s funny? I guess when they were bidding and people were trying to buy the book, a lot of people were trying to buy it for television, knowing it was going to be this ongoing thing. But as a movie, it’s going to be so great. I always say that if “GoodFellas” and “House” had a car accident, you’d come up with this.

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