Two years ago, it was announced that Taika Waititi was going to have a go at an animated “Flash Gordon” movie for Fox/Disney, but according to a recent report in Collider, that project is now being developed as a live action film instead. The news comes as part of an interview with producer John Davis as part of Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” promotion.
“Taika is writing it. It was a movie that was a huge influence on him growing up. It is one of his favorite movies. He initially said to me, ‘Let’s do it animated.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ Then we got into it and started developing it and he said, ‘No, let’s do it live-action.’ I said, ‘Even better,'” Davis told Collider.
“Flash Gordon” is based on a comic strip character from the 1930s originally drawn by Alex Raymond, who created him to compete with the other well-known cosmic comic book hero of the time, Buck Rogers. Back then, Gordon was a handsome polo player and Yale graduate who, along with his companions, Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov, travel to the planet Mongo where they must defeat its evil ruler, Ming the Merciless.
Whenever the name “Flash Gordon” comes up in conversation today, it’s usually associated with the truly epic movie made in 1980 that featured an incredible cast; with Sam J. Jones in the titular role, Max von Sydow as Emperor Ming, Melody Anderson as Dale Arden, Topol as Dr. Hans Zarkov, Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan, Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin and Peter Wyngarde as Klytus — who was an exceptional character created purely for the film.
Not only is it one of the most quotable movies ever made (“Flash, Flash I love you! But we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!” etc) but the accompanying soundtrack by Queen was nothing short of amazing. The look and feel of the movie perfectly matched the eccentric, kitsch style of the comic book strips, which is something of a miracle itself since the movie was plagued with production problems.
There was also a “Flash Gordon” TV series that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) in 2007, but no one remembers that. However, if you’re interested in the full story behind the 1980 movie, we highly recommend the 2017 documentary “Life After Flash” written, directed and painstakingly researched by Lisa Downs.
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It’s not clear yet whether or not this project will enter production before or after Waititi’s “Star Wars” movie. The director of “Thor: Ragnarok” says that script is still in the very early stages of drafting, but the bones of the plot have been laid out. His soccer movie “Next Goal Wins” is finished and awaiting release and “Thor: Love and Thunder” in post-production.
Davis (“Predators,” “Chronicle” and “I, Robot”) will produce the reboot, along with longtime collaborator John Fox, who has worked with Davis on “Jungle Cruise,” “Dolemite Is My Name” and “The Equalizer” TV series.
Collider writes that in terms of getting Waititi to actually direct the “Flash Gordon” movie, Davis feels he has an advantage over other projects vying for the filmmaker’s attention because Waititi himself wrote the script. “Well, he’s writing it. So when somebody writes a script that they’re going to direct, they’re obviously going to really like the script, right? So you get a big leg up, right? A lot of times, you go to a huge director with somebody else’s script and he’s got to reinvent it. They’ve got to make it their own. They’ve got to… whatever. This is going to be Taika-ready,” said Davis, who has apparently been planning this project for years.
According to IMDb, the project is still set to go ahead with Disney/Fox and apparently Sam Worthington and Ryan Reynolds were approached for the title role. There have been numerous attempts to get a “Flash Gordon” project off the ground and now, while sci-fi is the hottest genre in Hollywood, everyone is scrambling to launch or reboot as many sci-fi franchises as possible. Quite why it’s taken so long is inexplicable.
In the 1990s, action movie writer Steven E. de Souza wrote two drafts of a “Flash Gordon” script with Breck Eisner planning to direct, but it was never produced. Then, in 2018 it was announced that Julius Avery was in line to write and direct this remake. Avery replaced Matthew Vaughn, who had been attached to it since 2015. Avery’s script replaces one by Mark Protosevich, which in turn replaced one by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay. Then Disney bought out Fox and no one had a clue what was going on.
Lest we forget there are still attempts to get “Buck Rogers” airborne once more. Almost a year ago, we reported that Legendary Entertainment was finalizing the last details to secure the screen rights to Buck Rogers. Then, only a few months later, we reported that George Clooney wanted to be involved. And then we reported that the Buck Rogers estate, overseen by the Nowlan Family Trust, was looking to put an end to this reboot and had sent a cease and desist letter to Legendary Entertainment. The estate contends that “the Buck Rogers interests” have already penned an agreement with David Ellison’s Skydance Productions to exploit the property.
So hopefully, “Flash Gordon” will have more luck — thankfully there’s no dispute over that IP, it just remains whether or not Waititi will do the character and the story justice. Fingers crossed.