We are still over a year away from the May 25, 2012 release of Men in Black III, the official end to Will Smith’s three-and-a-half year hiatus from movies following Seven Pounds. Smith is attached to about a dozen projects that could be his next: an Annie remake with daughter Willow, the epic-sounding The City That Sailed (we were this close), the Wachowski Robin Hood re-imagining Hood. Two other candidates suggest his Smith has kept his nose in the Good Book. There’s The Legend of Cain, a vampiric take on the story of Cain and Abel, and Joe, a modern version of the harrowing tale of Job.
Screenwriting team Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (The Fighter) sold Joe to Sony Pictures and Smith’s production company Overbrook Entertainment; Smith is attached to star. In a recent interview, Tamasy spoke about their approach to updating the Biblical story, and revealed the studio wants to sign The Fighter director David O. Russell to helm Joe. Read what Tamasy had to say after the jump.
Eric D. Snider and Jeff Bayer brought Tamasy on to their Movie B.S. podcast to talk about The Fighter and tonight’s Oscar ceremony. (And lots about Air Bud, which Tamasy also wrote.) But the writer was very open when the subject of Joe came up:
Tamasy: We sold a project to Sony with Overbrook and Will Smith. It’s a modern version of the story of Job.
Snider: Will Will Smith be playing Job?
Tamasy: He’ll be playing “Joe.” The movie’s called Joe. It’s about a man [who is living] the American dream. He’s got the nice house, white picket fence, great kids, great wife, nice cars. God and the devil get together every thousand years to bet on a man’s life, and the fate of the world is at stake.
What all of us get hit with in a lifetime, this man gets hit with in one week. And it’s about whether or not he can still pick himself up from that and survive it. It’s a dramedy. At it’s heart, it’s a comedy — but it’s got, obviously, a real dramatic core to it.
If Joe is a comedy at heart, that is one dark, black heart. But I really like the bet between God and Satan as an entry point for the story. It certainly raises the stakes of a drama about a beleaguered man. (The fate of the world didn’t even come up in A Serious Man.) And that is essentially how the text reads — God lets Satan destroy this man’s life on a dare.
Tamasy and Johnson are in the middle of a rewrite right now and expect to turn in a new draft shortly. The filmmakers are currently trying to recruit Russell to direct. Tamasy likes Russell for the job because “he’s brilliant at fusing comedy into dramatic situations.” The writer hopes that Russell and Smith’s involvement will fast track the project through development. But like Smith, Russell has a number of projects lined up without any clear indication of what’s next. Possibilities include:
- Uncharted – an adaptation of the adventure video game starring Mark Wahlberg
- Cocaine Cowboys — a Mark Wahlberg-led remake of the 2008 documentary about late 70s/early 80s Miami drug trafficker Jon Roberts
- The Silver Lining’s Playbook – an adaptation of the Matthew Quick novel with Anne Hathaway and Bradley Cooper mentioned for the leads
- A Dirty Harry-esque cop drama with Ice Cube
- 2 Guns – a comic adaptation starring Vince Vaughn
- Under Cover – a comedy in which Jim Carrey joins a cover band
- Old St. Louis – a drama in the vein of Paper Moon, with Vince Vaughn and Chloe Moretz attached to star
I’m skeptical that we’ll see this Joe — the version directed by David O. Russell and starring Will Smith — anytime soon. But I’m really intrigued. It’s right up there with The City That Sailed for the project I most hope Smith blesses with his star power.
Click here to listen to the section of the podcast that covers Joe. Click over to Movie B.S. to listen to the full podcast, which also features great tidbits on how Oscar seating is assigned and why the Air Bud series suffered when its canine star died.
For the interested, some background info on the story as presented in the Book of Job:
The Book of Job begins with an introduction to Job’s character — he is described as a blessed man who lives righteously. Satan challenges Job’s integrity, proposing to God that Job serves him simply because God protects him. God removes Job’s protection, allowing Satan to take his wealth, his children, and his physical health in order to tempt Job to curse God. Despite his difficult circumstances, he does not curse God, but rather curses the day of his birth. [Wikipedia]