A feature adaptation of the long-running Mad Magazine comic strip Spy vs. Spy has been in the works for nearly a decade, and now Collider has exclusively learned that Rawson Marshall Thurber is in talks to direct the live-action movie for Warner Bros. and Imagine Entertainment.
Ron Howard and Brian Grazer will produce for Imagine, which had initially developed the project as a potential directing vehicle for Howard. Back in June 2011, the Imagine duo brought in David Koepp to produce alongside them and oversee a screenplay that would be written by his Premium Rush partner John Kamps, though other writers have surely had a crack at the script in the intervening years. With the exception of We’re the Millers, Thurber has written every movie he has directed, so it seems safe to assume that he’ll do his own pass on Spy vs. Spy as well.
For those who didn’t grow up reading Mad Magazine, Spy vs. Spy follows two rival spies, Black Spy and White Spy, who pursue each other in relentless and comical fashion. They wear wide-brimmed hats and dress in overcoats, and neither one has the sense to come in from the cold. Instead, they have a ball trying to outwit and harm each other, typically via a variety of booby-traps. There’s also a female Grey Spy who represents neutrality, and often uses the infatuations of Black Spy and White Spy to her advantage. The wordless comic strip was created in January 1961 by Antonio Prohías, and the characters have been featured in video games as well as an animated TV series
When the project was first announced, it was said that Warner Bros. and Imagine were planning “a physical and highly visual action comedy,” a genre that Thurber has experience with thanks to New Line’s Central Intelligence, which paired Dwayne Johnson with Kevin Hart years before the Jumanji franchise. That film led to Thurber becoming Johnson’s go-to guy, as they re-teamed on the underrated action movie Skyscraper, as well as Netflix’s upcoming blockbuster Red Notice.
Thurber was in the middle of shooting Red Notice with Johnson and fellow A-listers Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds when the coronavirus pandemic forced Netflix to suspend production. That movie will resume shooting as soon as restrictions are lifted and it’s safe to return to set. Given the film’s three stars, Red Notice could very well wind up setting Netflix viewership records when it eventually debuts on the streaming service.
While Thurber is developing several other projects around town, including Netflix’s Kingdom Come, Lionsgate’s Dust, and a Choose Your Own Adventure movie for producer John Davis, I wouldn’t be surprised if Spy vs. Spy turned out to be his next movie, given the producing firepower behind the project.
Thurber made a name for himself with his Terry Tate, Office Linebacker shorts. Those led to Thurber making his feature debut with the 2004 comedy DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, which grossed $168 million worldwide on a $20 million budget and launched his career. He’s represented by WME. For more on Red Notice, click here.