Last week we reported that writer-director Gary Ross (“Pleasantville”, “Seabiscuit”) was in talks with Columbia to direct their “Spider-Man” spinoff movie, “Venom” about the Spider-Man villain who has Spider-Man’s powers but he’s got claws and is muscular and slobbers a lot. I didn’t see much of a need for a Venom movie so I’m delighted to learn that Ross is pushing “Venom” aside to take on Donald Hamilton’s “Matt Helm” series about a swinging, pulpy super-spy. Hit the jump for more details.
The Playlist is reporting that an adaptation of “Matt Helm”, a project previously associated with Steven Spielberg before the director departed to do whatever else he wanted, is now in the hands of Gary Ross. This is slightly surprising since “Venom” would seem to be the bigger franchise and Ross is already writing the screenplay for “Spider-Man 4″. It’s also surprising because, as The Playlist notes, Ross has never directed big budget action films and now he’s choosing between “Venom” and “Helm”, the latter apparently taking on a “Bourne”-style because all spy movies are now made in the image of the “Bourne” movies (which isn’t a bad thing, although those films are great because of Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon with the hand-held, bare-knuckle fighting-style action as just one piece of a glorious picture).
There’s also mention that Bradley Cooper is the top choice to play Helm because he’s Bradley Cooper although I can’t think of a single project other than “Alias” where I think he could be leading-man material. I know why he’s popular and studios are now clamoring for him, but I don’t understand his popularity especially when he was pretty much the straight man in “The Hangover” and that film exploded in large part due to Zach Galifianakis, not Cooper. When the series was first adapted into films back in the 1960s, the role was played by suave boozer Dean Martin
Ross hasn’t dropped off “Venom” but that project is still a ways off but the director has set his sights to start filming on “Matt Helm” in summer 2010. I can’t help but wonder if the delay in “Venom” comes from a slight hesitance to see how audiences respond to “Spider-Man 4″ or at least seeing if they can rekindle the brand after its four-year dormancy.