Homer Simpson made a fairly prescient prediction in the nineties. Forewarning that long after they’re six feet under, Simpson ventured that a celebrity’s image and legacy could be shamelessly exploited and manipulated, believing it wouldn’t be long before we’d “all be in commercials dancing with vacuum cleaners.” Having endured Gene Kelly pimping Volkswagens or John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe doing their bit to keep Citroën afloat – not to mention the constant rumblings about resurrecting dead movie stars like Barbara Stanwyck and parachuting them into contemporary works of fiction – now, it seems, pretty much any historical figure is fair game for a whitewashing, regardless of whether or not there’s pre-existing footage. Whether it’s Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires, Jane Austen’s England populated with brain-chomping zombies, or Shakespeare being exposed as a beer-swilling “fraud,” anyone laced with the vaguest cultural cachet is grist for the revisionist mill.
To that end Variety report that Universal have hoovered up a spec script entitled “Leonardo,” written by Jonny Kurzman of “M.I. High” notoriety, which will retool beloved painter and visionary Leonardo da Vinci as he “embarks on a quest to prevent the Dark Ages from reclaiming Renaissance Europe,” presumably seeking to do for Renaissance humanism and rudimentary plate tectonic theory what “Hannibal Rising” did for cannibalism and erudition in the process. It’s also probably helps that Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes has already been successfully franchised out of all recognition into a lovably debonair action hero with a proclivity for boxing, taking his shirt off, and mumbling abstractedly in a cod British accent through reams of flat-footed exposition.
“Leonardo” stamps out similar territory to the dubious sounding “Leonardo da Vinci and the Soldiers of Forever,” which was announced last year but came to naught, and was part and parcel of a raft of projects also included the laughable prospect of Francis Lawrence helming a Marco Polo biopic. It also mimics the upcoming David Goyer Starz series “Da Vinci’s Demons.” Larry and Charles Gordon are set to produce – their collective credits include “Watchmen” and “The Girl Next Door.”
The end result will hopefully be more “Raiders of the Lost Ark” meets, well, “Young Indiana Jones” than “Tom & Jerry Kids” spliced with “Relic Hunter.” If nothing else, it should tide us over until some variation on “Oscar Wilde: Shotgun Maniac,” “Charles Darwin Goes Ape Down Under” or “I Was Charles Dickens’ Gay Lover” hit in the near future. Let’s be thankful the man who painted The Last Supper is, at least, not bogling himself insensible on the boob tube with a Dyson.