Warners Plan Fletch Revival

Budget to be charged to the Underhills

Investigative reporter and master of disguise IM Fletcher may finally be about to score a new series of screen adventures, with the news that Warner Bros have picked up the rights to Gregory McDonald's Fletch novels.

McDonald wrote a dozen books about the ex-wife beleaguered journalist/sleuth, the first of which was memorably adapted for the screen in 1985 starring Chevy Chase (following abortive attempts to get it going with Burt Reynolds and, of all people, Mick Jagger).

Fletch remains a curious meeting of SNL comedy star vehicle and properly tricky noirish mystery plot involving drug trafficking, police corruption and an unusual murder proposition, all set to a Beverly Hills Cop-ish Harold Faltermeyer score. A modest hit on its release, it's built up a serious cult following over the years.

Given the volume of source material, it ought to have been a series that ran and ran, but it fell at the first hurdle with 1989's Fletch Lives, inexplicably not culled from one of the books, and fatally compromised by a writers strike (though still nowhere near as bad as you may have heard). Two decades of development hell then followed. Harvey Weinstein and Miramax put Kevin Smith on the case of Fletch Won, which percolated for years and saw Smith earmarking the role for either Jason Lee or Ben Affleck. More recently, Scrubs honcho Bill Lawrence tried to get a prequel underway with Zach Braff set to star.

Neither version ultimately got off the ground though, leading to the rights lapse that has now allowed Warners to step in. David List, the manager of McDonald's estate (the author died in 2008), will produce along with Steve Golin (The Beaver), Michael Sugar (Rendition) and Warners' Jesse Ehrman, and the plan is a "reimagining": a "smart action comedy" on a "bigger canvas" than the two Chase outings.

No writers, directors, or potential stars are aboard yet, so watch this space for further developments.