Screenwriter David Koepp (Spider-Man) has been tapped to write Rob Marshall’s adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man starring Johnny Depp. The 1934 novel follows retired detective Nick Charles who is trying to happily live his life with his charming wife Nora and their dog Asta. However, when one of Charles’ former client Clyde Wynant goes missing and his secretary turns up dead, Nick is reluctantly drawn back into the case and the web of intrigue created by Wynant’s terrible family. Also, everyone in the book, particularly Nick and Nora, drinks like a fish but hardly anyone gets drunk. Hammett’s novel was successfully adapted into a franchise starring William Powell and Myrna Loy although Hammett only wrote one novel featuring Nick and Nora.
Hit the jump for more on this story and my thoughts on adapting The Thin Man.
While The Lone Ranger currently works through its budget issues, Depp is looking to stay busy and The Thin Man would provide a reunion not only with Marshall (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) but with Koepp who wrote and directed the adaptation of Stephen King’s Secret Window. Deadline reports that there’s no new script of The Thin Man so Koepp will be working from scratch.
However, Deadline adds that this won’t be a direct adaptation of the book but rather “the original intention is to take elements of the first two films and work them into one film, putting it into a period setting and giving it a Sherlock Holmes-like stylized treatment.” I’ve only seen the first film, but I’m sick and tired of every period movie now getting the “Sherlock Holmes” treatment. Perhaps Hollywood thinks that modern audiences have attention spans too short to accept anything that doesn’t fly at them a mile-a-minute and filled to the brim with anachronisms, and to tell the truth, Hollywood is probably right.
I’m not opposed to working from the films rather than the novel because The Thin Man is a rare instance where the movie is better than the book. I’m a big Hammett fan, but the novel meanders, Nora is an underdeveloped character, we never really get to know Charles other than he’s bored by all the scheming around him, and the way the dialogue is written makes it difficult to follow who’s talking (obviously that last issue isn’t a problem for a movie). But the basic premise is good and Koepp’s real challenge isn’t in exceeding the novel but the original film. My concern lays more with Depp and Marshall seeing as their first collaboration, Pirates 4, was one of the worst movies I’ve seen this year.
Koepp was recently hired to work on the script for Paramount’s Jack Ryan reboot. His latest directorial effort, the thriller Premium Rush starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon, is due out January 13, 2012.
[Update: I overlooked that Marshall may want to throw in a musical number or two. I presume they would be worked in as shows that Nick and Nora go to because if the main characters start breaking out into song and dance…hoo boy. I’m not against musicals. I’m against sporadic musicals.]