Billy Ray Adapting THE THIN MAN for Johnny Depp and Director Rob Marshall

     October 6, 2011

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When it comes to writing a hard-boiled detective story, few are better than Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon). As for adapting those stories to the screen, few do it as expertly as Billy Ray (State of Play). Ray has been tapped to pen the current Warner Bros. adaptation of Hammett’s novel The Thin Man, starring Johnny Depp as Nick Charles, a retired private eye who maintains his drinking habit. Although Jerry Stahl (Bad Boys II) and David Koepp (Spider-Man) were initially on board for the script, director Rob Marshall decided to go in another direction and Ray landed the job. Personally, I think Marshall made the right choice.

The Thin Man is more of a light-hearted murder mystery than Hammett’s other works, as the plot revolves around a married couple solving crimes while bantering back and forth. Though Depp can easily portray a wise-cracking, alcoholic, the equally witty and thrill-seeking Nora Charles has yet to be cast. The success of The Thin Man, in my opinion, balances on that chemistry. Hit the jump for more.

billy_ray_image_01Risky Business also reports that this project is a priority for Warner Bros. and the pick-up of Ray is a good win. Ray is a hot commodity as of late, having written Peter Pan Begins for Columbia. He’s also writing for A Captain’s Duty, a story about a boat captain’s stand-off against Somali pirates starring Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips; the American remake of The Secrets in Their Eyes; and an untitled mystery adventure project with J.J. Abrams.

The original adaptation of the novel The Thin Man in the 1934 film by the same name cemented the characters of Nick and Nora Charles in history. Their chemistry, pattern of dialogue and light-heartedness around grisly crimes has often been copied, though rarely as eloquently as in the original (book or movie, I’ll leave that up for debate).

From the book jacket for The Thin Man:

Nick and Nora Charles are Hammett’s most enchanting creations, a rich, glamorous couple who solve homicides in between wisecracks and martinis. At once knowing and unabashedly romantic, The Thin Man is a murder mystery that doubles as a sophisticated comedy of manners. [Amazon]

Depp is producing along with Infinitum Nihil partner Christi Dembrowski and Kevin McCormick via Langley Park.

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