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AFM News: ‘Walk Among Tombstones’ Financed, w/ Feb. 2013 Shoot Set; Is TJ On-board For The Ride?

AFM News: 'Walk Among Tombstones' Financed, w/ Feb. 2013 Shoot Set; Is TJ On-board For The Ride?

Updates on this project (an adaptation of A Walk Among The Tombstones), which Sergio first alerted you to last year (June 2011), and I updated you on in the spring of this year, when there was some movement on it; although nothing definite.

That’s about to change, as news from the Americn Film Market (AFM) reveals that it’ll be the first project produced under a new 3-year deal between Exclusive Media and Cross Creek that will see the co-financing, co-producing and co-developing of at least two feature films per year, with budgets of up to $65 million.

It’s also been reported that principal photography is now set to begin in NYC in February, just a few months away, with Liam Neeson (who’s clearly *hot* right now) starring and Scott Frank directing.

And while Neeson’s isn’t at all the face that I pictured when I read the novel the film will be based on, a while ago, what you all should be paying attention to is the fact that there’s a major supporting character in this – an African American teen – who actually plays a substantial, if pivotal role in the book (I’m not so sure whether the most recent screenplay adaptation will be an exact copy of the book, but I’m assuming that the character, named TJ, will remain).

To be clear, in the novel, TJ is as stereotypical a character as you can get in this kind of hard-boiled crime novel. He’s a young black man from the streets, so of course he’s street smart, and is depicted as you’d expect a young black dude from the hood to be portrayed, in the novel. But he’s essentially our hero’s, Matt Scudder’s/Liam Neeson’s, sidekick, and connection to those areas of the city that Scudder himself would have a challenging time infiltrating.

TJ also happens to be very well-connected.

BUT, if you’re willing to look past those *faults* of the narrative, you’ll appreciate TJ’s craftiness, smarts, passion, dedication, and edge, and knack for being in the right place at the right time. He’s the man with the answers and the plan, and turns out to be very necessary in Scudder’s investigation.

AGAIN, I’m going solely on the novel here, which I read years ago; the script that Frank is going to direct from, starting next February, could look exactly the same as the novel, or entirely different. We’ll find out soon enough.

I’m actually a fan of the entire Matt Scudder series of novels, written by Lawrence Block. I’ve read 4 or 5 of them; they’re relatively fast, entertaining reads. Block pulls no punches with the material, and makes no apologies. It’s straightforward, unpretentious, hard-boiled, violent, bleak, gritty, New York-set crime fiction, so you’ll find a mix of characters of all skin colors and ethnicities, without any concern for PC depictions. 

So you’re either with it or you’re not. I was, and I think the would make for some really good genre films. 

Although, in this age, the adaptation may opt to go the ore PC route, and clean up the stereotypes so as not to offend anyone. But I think that would kill part of the essence of the novel.

I haven’t read the most recent version of the script that’s been adapted from the novel, so I can’t say what’s been done with it. Sergio read an old version of the script, years ago, and said he loved it. What the script looks like today, we can’t say.

The project has been “in development” for a while now, and it looks like it’s finally heading into production, next February, which means that we should find out about casting very soon. 

Block’s Scudder character was previously played by Jeff Bridges in the 1986 Hal Ashby-directed 8 Million Ways To Die, from a script penned by Oliver Stone

As for who’ll play TJ (assuming he’s been kept in the script as a streetsmart black teenager), no word on who they’re looking at yet. Given that they’ve aged Scudder a bit (when Jeff Bridges played the character in 1986, Bridges was 36 – a big difference compared to Neeson’s 60), I won’t be surprised if they also age the TJ character from a teen to a 20-something, or even a 30-something black man, and cast a black actor with a familiar face, and likely someone with some comedic timing, since the character also provides a lot of the comedy relief – in the novel anyway.

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