What they should do, what they will do

The Deep Blue GoodbyeAfter the geek movie bloggers finish mulling over the possible return of Bryan Singer to the X-Men films — none of which have particularly wowed me in the first place — another topic for discussion is Mike Fleming’s post about producer Peter Chernin’s plan for an upcoming Bible-epic about Moses to be made in the style of “300” and directed by Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted,” “Nightwatch“). Since Bekmambetov seems to have the same degree of difficulty with basic storytelling as I do with pronouncing his name, and I didn’t much care for “300” in the first place, this does not excite me.

I could go on and on about how the green-screen technique might be appropriate for some films, but not really for a classic biblical tale, but I don’t really care about that. It will be what it will be. However, buried in the same item is this:

Chernin adds the project to several pre-existing Fox projects he has joined as producer, including the John D. MacDonald novel series adaptation “The Deep Blue Goodbye,” the Appian Way-produced drama that’s a potential star vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio.

Now, this probably won’t get much reaction from most of you. How many old books by successful authors get optioned and then attached to big movies stars for a time? Lots. Also, this item ran a couple of weeks ago, but escaped my notice.

Here’s the thing that you’ve missed if you’re not already familiar with MacDonald’s work. “The Deep Blue Goodbye” is the first book about Travis McGee. That’s a big deal, to me anyway. In his earlier article, Fleming does a pretty good job describing the series:

DiCaprio is in line to play Travis McGee, a self-described beach bum who lives aboard 52-foot houseboat the Busted Flush [which he won playing poker] and alleviates his cash-flow problems by hiring on as a “salvage consultant.” He recovers property for clients, taking a hefty percentage and getting into a lot of danger and romance in sun-drenched Florida. “The Deep Blue Goodbye,” the first in a 21-volume bestselling Travis McGee series, was originally published in 1964.

The series has mostly been ignored by Hollywood, though there was a long forgotten 1970 movie with Rod Taylor and a 1981 TV film with Sam Elliot, neither seen by me. MacDonald supposedly also scotched a planned TV series because he feared it would hurt books sales if fans could see McGee on TV every week.

Blood DiamondWhat Fleming left out was the appeal of the books, a sort of bridge between Raymond Chandler/Ross MacDonald style medium-to-hard boiled gumshoe tales and “The Rockford Files” — and also probably “Magnum P.I.” which I never really watched much.  To me, this seems an obvious attempt for DiCaprio to find the conflicted inner macho-man he did a good job of capturing in “Blood Diamond,” which I personally otherwise kind of hated. To be fair, pretty or not, he is a first-rate actor. Moreover, in his less skinny near-middle-age, he actually more or less fits the physical description of McGee given on Wikipedia.

Still, MacDonald’s Magee was a more old fashioned kind of a character and, as in Leonardo DiCaprio‘s well-acted yet just somehow wrong performance in “The Aviator,” this is a part that cries out for the kind of old-school “real men” type actors who today only seem to come from Australia or the African-American community. If it were up to me, and if no Aussie wanted the gig and black stars didn’t care for the seriously nontraditional casting — I’d personally go with Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” fame.

Indeed, the ultra-commitment phobic Don Draper really does want to be the eternally footloose, Peter-Pan-Knight-Errant Travis McGee, who’s basically a tougher Jim Rockford, or a less ruthless James Bond. I know I do. In fact, I think all guys do. But will this movie or what sure sounds like a ludicrously amped-up Bible movie actually get made?

Coming eventually, maybe: Why Paul Giamatti must be forced, against his will if necessary, to play Magee’s brainy, hirsute economist sidekick, Meyer.

  

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