We don’t normally write about streaming news here because, you know, we sell tickets to theatrical releases, but sometimes news comes along that’s so big I just have to write it up.
That sort of news dropped today with Deadline reporting that Netflix is set to spend its biggest budget ever on new project, The Gray Man – we’re talking at least $200 million. But that hefty price tag comes with good reason: Joe and Anthony Russo are set to direct The Gray Man as their first project in the directors’ chairs since Avengers: Endgame. And what’s more, they’ve already lined up Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling to star.
The plan is to create a new franchise with the movie, with the aim of it being James Bond-level in scope and scale and action. The team the Russos have assembled are more than up to that challenge. The Russos are producing through their AGBO banner. Mike Larocca will also produce for AGBO while Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum will have producer duties for Roth Kirschenbaum. Joe Russo wrote the script with their longtime Marvel writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the Co-Presidents of Story at AGBO, having given it a final polish. That script is based on the 2009 Mark Greaney novel of the same name that follows the exploits of Court Gentry, a former CIA agent turned freelance assassin for hire.
The Gray Man will reportedly be a cat-and-mouse story spanning the globe with deadlier consequences. Gosling will play Gentry while Evans is set to play Lloyd Hansen, a former CIA colleague of Gentry’s, who is now hunting Gentry down. It’s unclear what Evans contract stipulates. It’s entirely likely that this reteam with his longtime Marvel directors is a one-off project. The plan is for Gosling, however, to return for future sequels should The Gray Man be successful, which, let’s be honest, it will be. One need look no further for proof of AGBO’s success for Netflix than AGBO-produced Extraction, which starred another Marvel star in Chris Hemsworth and was directed by longtime Marvel stunt coordinator Sam Hargraves. That movie, which debuted in late April, reportedly broke records for Netflix and a sequel is already in development.
Interestingly, this project has been in development for quite a few years. It was initially in development with New Regency as a vehicle for Brad Pitt with his Ad Astra director, James Gray, attached to direct. But that project fell apart for various reasons and the Russos picked it up and have been slowly putting the pieces together for the past few years.
Fans of Captain America: Winter Soldier will be pleased to know the Russos have that on their minds. “The movie is a real mano a mano between those two great actors who represent two different versions of the CIA, in what it can be, and what it can do,” Anthony Russo explained. “For those who were fans of Captain America: Winter Soldier, this is us moving into that territory in more of a real-world setting.”
Joe Russo added the scope will rival what you can find in theaters, saying at the time of the announcement
“The intention is for it to be competitive with any theatrical, and the ability to do with with Gosling and Evans is a dream for us. The idea is to create a franchise and build out a whole universe, with Ryan at the center of it. We have all committed to the first movie, and that’s got to be great to get us to the second movie. These are master assassins, and Gosling’s characters gets burned by the CIA and Evans’ character has to hunt him down. We have a great working relationship with Netflix, and we go back almost 20 years with Scott Stuber. We formed AGBO to be an agnostic storytelling company, where we figure out the best platform. We think Netflix is the perfect place for this film.”
Netflix is quickly becoming a go-to platform for action projects of theatrical quality, landing big names and exciting directors. There was the aforementioned Extraction, which did huge numbers for Netflix and was praised for its graphic but dynamic fight sequences. Most recently, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Old Guard, based on the Greg Rucka graphic novel series and led by Charlize Theron playing an immortal mercenary, also did enormous numbers for the streaming platform. It’s also launching the action careers of a number of filmmakers. Hargraves has the Extraction sequel. The success of The Old Guard has already nabbed Prince-Bythewood her next project, directing Viola Davis in The Woman King. The Gray Man is in a position to be Netflix’s biggest hit to date. It will be interesting to see how this one develops.