Marvel Studios has hired Jon Favreau to develop and direct the big-screen adaptation of "Iron Man" and has attracted an impressive roster of writers to help bring some of its high-profile characters such as Captain America and Thor to the big screen.
Favreau will direct a feature version of Marvel's armored hero and develop the script with the writing team of Arthur Marcum and Matt Holloway ("Convoy"). The project originally was set up at New Line with Nick Cassavetes directing.
In the comic, Iron Man's real identity is that of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, who develops an armored suit that lets him fly and shoot "repulsor rays." The comic debuted in the 1960s, and Iron Man's origin involved Stark being a prisoner of the Viet Cong. The comic evolved into Stark fighting spies, both political and industrial, while also battling alcoholism.
Writer-director-actor Favreau appeared as "Foggy Nelson" in 2003's "Daredevil" movie, and as he grew as a director -- helming the effects-heavy family adventure movie "Zathura: A Space Adventure" -- he and Marvel chairman Avi Arad looked for projects to collaborate on. Favreau's sensibilities have been to eschew CGI in favor of an almost retro aesthetic, but "Iron Man" will see him changing his tune.
"I've always been very reticent to use CGI to the extent that it has been used by other filmmakers," Favreau said in an interview. "I think that now, through motion-capture and the integration of miniatures with CGI, like in 'King Kong,' I'm starting to be a lot more convinced by what the technology can do. But the idea of using CGI and relying solely on that to tell your story, those days are past. I think that integrating practical filmmaking and augmenting it with CGI is the key to making it an emotionally involved story."
"Iron Man" will be Favreau's next movie, and he hopes to go behind the camera early next year. Favreau is repped by CAA.
Among Marvel's other projects is a sequel to 2003's "Hulk," being penned by Zak Penn, whose credits include Marvel's "X2" and upcoming "X-Men: The Last Stand."
"Ant Man" is being adapted by "Shaun of the Dead" co-writer/director Edgar Wright. Wright will direct and co-write with scribe partner Joe Cornish. Edgar also will co-produce with his Big Talk Prods. partner Nira Park. Ant Man is really Dr. Hank Pym, a biochemist who discovers a rare group of subatomic particles from which he concocts a size-altering formula that he tests on himself.
"Captain America" is being adapted by David Self, who is no stranger to Marvel, having worked on adaptations of "Namor, the Sub-Mariner" for Universal, and "Deathlok" for Paramount. He also wrote "Road to Perdition," the Sam Mendes-Tom Hanks movie that was originally a graphic novel.
Captain America is a character created during World War II as a symbol of American strength and values who fought Nazis. After his popularity waned in the 1950s, he was brought back as a member of the superhero team the Avengers. Part of his origin included being frozen in suspended animation, thus having a "man out of time" foil to it. Self said it's an aspect Marvel will be keeping.
"He's a Norman Rockwell character who is faced with today's America and is forced to look at his own past, things in the '40s that weren't necessarily what they were cracked up to be, and also how today's country may be different than it looks," UTA-repped Self said.
"Nick Fury" is Marvel's hero who is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division), a spy agency. Andrew Marlow, whose credits include "Air Force One," "End of Days" and "Hollow Man," is writing.
"Thor" follows the adventures of the legendary Norse thunder deity and is being penned by Mark Protosevich ("Poseidon").
"In the comics, the stories that appealed to me most were the features called 'Tales of Asgard,' " CAA-repped Protosevich said. "They were very much based on the traditional Norse myths and how the relationship between being like Thor and Loki and Thor and Odin, and how these beings manifested themselves. I don't want to give too much away, but I will say the movie will take place in the world of myth and legend but will not betray some of the thematic elements of the comics that made them so appealing, like the idea of a god growing to truly understand man."
The writers and directors Marvel has brought on board are huge comic book fans -- Favreau read comics in high school and doodled, and according to Self, "Captain America was my favorite superhero as a little kid because my dad told me I could one day be Captain America" -- which is the No. 1 prerequisite, Marvel chairman Arad said.
"Unless you buy into the gestalt of what is Marvel and understand the characters and metaphors and treat them as living people, we are not interested," Arad said. "This is material that has withstood the test of history, and the director and writers have to feel a sense responsibility."
Marvel is moving ahead into discussions with talent and visual effects houses as it gears up for full-scale production. The first release is anticipated in 2008.
The movies are expected to be financed with Marvel's $525 million revolving film financing facility and distributed under Marvel's overall distribution arrangement with Paramount. The sequel to "Hulk," however, will be distributed by Universal, which distributed the original.
President and chief operating officer Michael Helfant will oversee the company's growth to accommodate this newly expanded production activity.
The projects will be shepherded and produced by Marvel president of production Kevin Feige and executive vp production Ari Arad.
Borys Kit writes for The Hollywood Reporter.
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