Sony’s been dragging its feet with The Equalizer, a big-screen adaptation of the popular 1980s television series starring Edward Woodward as private detective Robert McCall. Russell Crowe and Paul Haggis (who collaborated on The Next Three Days) were long attached to the project. Both fell by the wayside last year, and Crowe was replaced by Denzel Washington.

Equalizer, with Washington, is now a red-hot project. Sony was very responsive to the latest script draft by Richard Wenk (who co-wrote next month’s Expendables 2) and is fast-tracking the project to begin principal photography by April 2013, possibly on location in Boston.

Wenk’s take on the Equalizer property is described by Deadline as follows:

The film is loosely based on the TV series that starred Edward Woodward as a mysterious former covert operations officer who helps people in trouble… [It] has that basic premise but takes off in its own way, tailored to Washington’s skills. He’ll play a solitary, monastic figure who hates injustice and devotes himself to helping people who are being victimized.

Studio heads have their eyes on a lineup of directors for Equalizer that’s worth your attention. The list includes: Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive), Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption), Gavin O’Connor (Warrior), and Pierre Morel (Taken). It’s worth mentioning: most of these accomplished action filmmakers have other projects vying for their attention, so it’s entirely possible that none of them will land the Equalizer job.

Denzel Washington in ‘Safe House’

The Equalizer is setting up for a $50 million budget, which covers Washington’s usual $20 million salary. Sony, in other words, wants this to be a lean and mean thriller that emulates the model for success of Safe House from earlier this year – where Washington’s appeal as a methodical loner, plus Bourne-style gritty action, led to a higher than expected $202 million global gross on an $85 million budget (and an overall decent critical reception to boot).

Insiders are reporting that Equalizer is also “designed to launch the first franchise” for Washington. That calls attention to an unusual aspect of the Oscar-winning actor’s career – namely, despite having played many variations on the “solitary, monastic” archetype (see: Courage Under Fire, Man on Fire, The Book of Eli, Safe House), Washington’s never portrayed the exact same one.

Washington also has the Robert Zemeckis drama Flight and the thriller 2 Guns arriving, for those who aren’t enticed by a prospective Equalizer franchise.

Expect to learn more about The Equalizer over the upcoming months.

Source: Deadline