Like the man himself, films about real-life magician and escapologist Harry Houdini has proved hard to lock down for years. Directors and writers have taken a crack for various studios, and more than one project is bubbling away. Sony is hoping that Chronicle writer Max Landis is the man to make it happen for the home of Spider-Man.
Possibly encouraged by the surprise success of Now You See Me last year, the studio has Landis working up a new draft of its project, one that will feature Houdini’s story with an added dash of what's described as Lovecraftian influence. So, what, the magician will be keeping demons from our gate? Landis taking over a film that has been scratching at Sony’s door since the 1990s, with Paul Verhoeven among the first to give it a try. More recently, Scott Frank wrote a script that briefly attracted Hunger Games man Francis Lawrence.
Born Erik Weisz on March 24, 1874, the magician took the stage name Harry Houdini after a combination of the first name friends gave him and famed French illusionist Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin. He became well known for his magic and escapology, but also for his cinematic aspirations and mile-wide sceptical streak that saw him expose several fraudulent psychics and self-proclaimed spiritualists.
Landis, who brought such style and heart to Chronicle and has since gone on to write Frankenstein for Fox and direct his first film with Me Him Her, could definitely bring something fresh and footloose to the idea.
If it does actually get made, it’ll need to beat Summit out of the gate, as the Twilight studio has Dean Parisot interested in its take, which discusses the theory that Houdini may have been a spy as well as a magician. Then there’s the seemingly ill-fated Broadway musical version, which lost Hugh Jackman through scheduling issues late last year. Houdini fans in the meantime will have to make do with Death Defying Acts, the romantic drama version of the magician with Guy Pearce in the lead.