With G.I. Joe: Retaliation hitting theaters this weekend, screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have been busy promoting their sequel to 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Earlier this week, we spoke to the duo about their work on Retaliation and their hope of seeing the Deadpool movie they wrote finally make it to the screen someday.
That wasn't all we discussed, though, as the pair has remained hard at work since making a name for themselves with 2009's horror-comedy hit Zombieland. With a long list of projects on the horizon and in various stages of writing or production, Reese and Wernick offered up a few updates on some of the films we can still hope to see from them down the road.
“What really appeals to us on most every project is this idea of it being a little left of center,” Wernick told Movies.com when asked what initially catches their eye in potential projects.
After the success of Zombieland, the screenwriting duo soon became one of Hollywood's most in-demand creative teams, which in turn led to various opportunities for both original projects and adaptations. Among those projects is a live-action movie based on Image Comics' recent Cowboy Ninja Viking comic book series about a government agent named Duncan whose multiple-personality disorder becomes an asset when each personality is trained with a specific, deadly set of skills.
Created by writer A.J. Lieberman and artist Riley Rossmo, Cowboy Ninja Viking was initially optioned by Disney in 2010, but then went to Universal last year with Reese and Wernick attached to write the screenplay. World War Z director Marc Forster was announced as the director of the film.
“Cowboy Ninja Viking has a brilliantly written, funny, emotional, wacky character in Duncan and the multiple personalities that live inside his head,” said Wernick. “What we really tapped into was this idea that the cowboy and the ninja and the viking are all imaginary friends that live inside his head, and yet they're his family, too. They're his f**ked-up family that he's been trying to push away. And over the course of the movie, Duncan's journey is this journey of accepting who he is and embracing this dysfunctional family inside his head – much in the same way Zombieland was about a dysfunctional family.”
Reese and Wernick, who are also producers on the movie, hope that Forster will move on to Cowboy Ninja Viking after he's finished with World War Z. If that does indeed happen, production could begin later this year.
According to the duo, in order for Cowboy Ninja Viking to make a successful transition to the screen, there needs to be a way for Duncan's various personalities to be active, visible characters in the story – a dilemma they think they have a solution for.
“The key to this project is figuring out a way for those inner voices to manifest themselves on-screen,” explained Reese. “So we envision them as imaginary friends that only Duncan can see, and yet we see them on-screen – so the audience sees our main character sitting there, and then the same actor dressed as a cowboy, a ninja, and a viking next to him. He's having full-on conversations with these buddies of his, and no one else can them in the movie. And that's what makes it possible to be a movie.”
Also on the pair's list of in-development projects is another comic book adaptation, though this one is significantly lower profile than Deadpool or even Cowboy Ninja Viking.
Originally a Japanese toy line imported to the U.S. in 1974, the “Micronauts” were a series of robot- and alien-based action figures, vehicles, and playsets that inspired a relatively successful Marvel Comics series that spanned more than 50 issues and even featured crossovers with the X-Men and other well-known Marvel characters. Hasbro acquired the rights to the toy line a few years ago, and announced plans in 2009 to produce a Micronauts movie with J.J. Abrams.
“We've written a couple of drafts of Micronauts and it's in the Paramount system now,” said Wernick. “We developed it with Bad Robot, and it's probably not what you might imagine a Micronauts movie to be.”
“It departs from the comic wildly, so if you hope it's loyal to the comic you'll be disappointed in tha particular sense,” revealed Reese. “However, it's very, very different and very, very cool. Bad Robot has a strict secrecy enforcement policy, so we can't talk about details except to say that it's different from the comic.”
“Yeah, it's different from anything you might expect,” reiterated Wernick.
The pair is working on more than just adaptations, though, and their original science fiction screenplay Epsilon was recently sold to Sony Pictures. The film reportedly takes place after a robot uprising that was successfully put down by humans. With civilization now devoid of electronics and any other inroads for robots to make a second attempt at overthrowing humans, an exiled group of robots plots their revenge.
“We're back at home [with Sony Pictures] where we originally started out with Zombieland,” said Wernick of Epsilon's current status. “It's nice to be back, and we're in the process of speaking with directors. Sony is excited to make the movie.”
“It's all about finding the right director for that one now,” agreed Reese.
MORE: Dialogue: The 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' Writers on Character Choices, Comics and if We'll See a 'Deadpool' Movie