With their revamped monsters universe officially underway now that production has started on The Mummy, Universal is doubling down on shared universes with plans to build a series of interconnected films based on the works of best-selling author Robert Ludlum, the very same behind the studio’s hit Jason Bourne franchise.THR reports that The Amazing Spider-Man and White House Down scribe James Vanderbilt will craft the series of shared universe films alongside his partners at Mythology Entertainment, Brad Fischer and William Sherak, as well as Ben Smith and Jeffrey Weiner of Captivate Entertainment.
Universal will kick off their new universe with the Dwayne Johnson-led The Janson Directive, which has been in the works at the studio since 2011. Johnson has been attached to the project since 2014, and while it was always meant to be a name-brand franchise for Johnson, it’s now going to kick off even more.
Vanderbilt previously wrote one of Johnson’s first films, the wonderful 2003 actioner The Rundown, and will adapt The Janson Directive from a story co-authored by Akiva Goldsman (who is also hard at work on Paramount’s Transformers universe). Universal has been working on bringing a number of Ludlum’s spy thrillers to the screen, including The Parsifal Mosaic, The Sigma Protocol and Covert One, and is now aiming to bring the titles together under one larger interconnected banner. The report states that Vanderbilt will co-author two more unnamed story treatments to shape the Ludlum-verse, which will then be adapted by as-yet unhired screenwriters.
The Janson Directive will star Johnson as a former operative who is now a world-famous security consultant. When he takes on a job to rescue a kidnapped Nobel laureate, his life is thrown upside down after the rescue mission goes horribly wrong and he’s charged with the victim’s death. No word on how Johnson’s Janson (that’s not getting old soon) will factor into the larger Ludlum-verse, but presumably he’ll be the Iron Man of the bunch. Unless they ultimately cross this over with Bourne, in which case I guess he’s the Cap. In either case, The Bourne Legacy proved that you can’t just copy/paste the appeal of Ludlum’s spy thrillers, so I’ll be interested to see how these turn out.
Johnson, who I’m quite convinced is either a sorcerer or a Time Lord, has a hell of a slate lined up. His HBO series Ballers returns for Season 2 this summer, his two-hander with Kevin Hart, the action comedy Central Intelligence, arrives in theaters arrives in theaters next month, he recently filmed Baywatch with Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario, and he shows no signs of slowing down. After that he’s already lined up Fast 8, the Jumanji remake, a Rampage adaptation with San Andreas director Brad Peyton, San Andreas 2, a ‘Lethal Weapon inspired’ action comedy from Will Gluck, and possibly Doc Savage with Shane Black. That’s it for now, but hey, it’s only Wednesday.