Universal’s interconnected movie monster universe is finally getting off the ground in a big way. A few years ago, the studio announced plans to reboot its various monster properties as part of a cinematic universe a la Marvel, with Alex Kurtzman (Transformers, Star Trek) and Fast & Furious screenwriter Chris Morgan spearheading the charge. The duo assembled a writer’s room of scribes to come up with plans for various reboots, with Kurtzman kicking things off by directing The Mummy. That film recently scored a huge movie star in Tom Cruise, and now Universal’s next monster film has also secured a big name: Johnny Depp.
Per THR, Depp has been set to lead The Invisible Man, with Now You See Me and Men in Black scribe Ed Solomon writing the screenplay. In addition to Solomon, the writers room that Morgan and Kurtzman assembled included Jon Spaihts (Prometheus), Noah Hawley (FX’s Fargo), and Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners). For The Invisible Man, Kurtzman and Morgan will be producing, obviously.
For those unaware, the film is based on the H.G. Wells novel of the same name, which told of a scientist who finds a way to become invisible, losing his sanity in the process. James Whale directed Universal’s 1933 adaptation, but various riffs on the story have made it to the screen over the years, with one of my personal favorites being the Chevy Chase-fronted Memoirs of an Invisible Man. And let us not forget Paul Verhoeven’s pervy 2000 pic Hollow Man.
This marks a curious, if not entirely unsurprising move by Depp. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of him signing on to lead Pirates of the Caribbean within seconds of being offered the part. There’s no director yet set for The Invisible Man, although Kurtzman and Morgan no doubt shared their intentions with the actor. Moreover, Depp’s recent output has failed to hit the heights of his post-Caribbean success, with 2010’s Alice in Wonderland really standing as his last bona fide hit. He recently made an admirable attempt at returning to drama with Black Mass, but his next two features—Alice Through the Looking Glass and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales—find him receding back into kooky character territory.
One imagines the prospect of playing someone who’s invisible marks a fun challenge for Depp, and I’ll admit I’m curious to see where this goes. If Universal does intend to bring these various characters together, and if their casting continues at the level of Cruise and Depp—with Angelina Jolie courted to direct and star in The Bride of Frankenstein—we could be in for a megastar, Ocean’s Eleven-style team up once these characters start to cross over.
Hopefully we hear more about Universal’s plans for The Invisible Man soon. Other monster pics in development include Van Helsing, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein, and Dracula. Kurtzman’s The Mummy kicks things off on June 9, 2017.