Johnny Depp In Talks To Play Harry Houdini

For director Dean Parisot

Johnny Depp In Talks To Play Houdini

by James White |
Published on

Forget the Devil; real-life magician and escapologist Harry Houdini is pulling off an even greater trick. He has several companies scrambling to make a film about him first - and he's been dead for 88 years, making his machinations that much more impressive. Lionsgate/Summit has a new ally in its quest to reach the screen, with news that Johnny Depp is in negotiations to star in **The Secret Life Of Houdini{ =nofollow}.

This is one that has been bubbling away since at least 2009, when Summit – in its pre-Lionsgate acquisition days – grabbed the rights to William Kalush and Larry Sloman’s 2006 book, which is subtitled The Making Of America’s First Superhero. Their book centred around controversial claims that the escape expert was an undercover agent. The pair make the case that Houdini not only worked with British Intelligence, but the US Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies at the turn of the 20th century, using his performance tours as a cover. Houdini regularly went to local law enforcement agencies and asked them to lock him up securely - only to promptly escape - as a means of drumming up interest in his shows, and according to the authors then used these contacts to report back to the government.

But the film version, with a script by Noah Oppenheim, reportedly casts Houdini as more of an Indiana Jones figure, hunting occult objects around the world. Yes, it looks like they're putting actual magic in the great magician's life.

Dean Parisot is still attached to direct the film, which will have to wait to secure Depp’s services. He’s currently filming Whitey Bulger drama Black Mass and will segue from that into a reprisal of his Mad Hatter role in Alice In Wonderland sequel Through The Looking Glass. Then there’s Disney’s desire to put him back in one of his other big franchises, with a fifth Pirates Of The Caribbean movie floating in dock waiting to sail once the script is shipshape.

Lionsgate and Summit will want to act on this one: Sony has Max Landis re-writing a film that tells the story of Houdini’s life with some added Lovecraftian tones. Those of you after a relatively straight biopic, meanwhile, should probably just give up.

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