New ‘Doc Savage’ Character, Plot, & Casting Details From Shane Black

Published 1 year ago by , Updated June 25th, 2014 at 11:18 am,

It’s probably no surprise that Sony’s upcoming Doc Savage movie, based on the classic pulp fiction stories about the heroic scientist and adventurer that is set to be directed by Shane Black (Iron Man 3), is taking a little while to cook. With a property that hasn’t been injected back into the popular consciousness for a while, and which has only ever had one critically and commercially disastrous movie made out of it, Doc Savage is a long way from being a safe bet.

If there could be said to be a safe bet in the film industry right now, superheroes would probably top the list, given the reliable success of Spider-Man for Sony/Columbia, the Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel for Warner Bros., the X-Men movies for Twentieth Century Fox and – last but not least – the Marvel cinematic universe for Disney and Marvel Studios.

Speaking in the above interview with IGN, Black expresses his belief that Doc Savage has a lot of superhero qualities, but that he also needs to have a bit of an edge:

“Obviously in the books there’s an element of ‘goody goody’ that we like. Doc Savage was the basis essentially for Superman because his name is Clark, he has a fortress of solitude, and ‘oh Superman has the same thing, that’s odd.’ But that kind of perfect hero who never makes mistakes him great to a point and that type of adventure and the pulp it represents has been so imitated. Raiders of the Lost Ark is essentially a child of Doc Savage. But we needed something more.

“So we kept it in the 30s, we beefed up the sort of rationale behind what it would take to be a perfect person and to be trained as such from childhood and how that would scar someone. And what it would take to be a parent who is capable of inflicting that on your kid. But beyond that we’ve also tried to be true to the series, give him the helpers and it’s also reinvigorating it but introducing a whole new brand of people to this is a challenge. It’s been around, it’s been 75 years.”

Fans of the classic Doc Savage stories might be somewhat affronted by the idea of Clark being portrayed as emotionally scarred by his own perfectionism, but there’s no denying that such an interpretation could add an interesting extra dimension to Clark’s vow that he will “strive every moment of my life to make myself better and better.” One the one hand it could be lamented that modern heroes are so rarely portrayed as wholly good and righteous (even Superman used his powers to commit some pretty morally questionable actions in Man of Steel), but a Doc Savage who struggles under the weight of his own desire to always better himself might be a lot more relatable than one who never shows any weakness of resolve.

Doc Savage in a giant monster hand New Doc Savage Character, Plot, & Casting Details From Shane Black

The script, written by Black in collaboration with Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry, sounds like it’s already fairly refined. When talk came around to the subject of casting, however, Black admitted that the progress was still in the early stages. This isn’t necessarily due to the struggle of finding the right actor to embody the persona of Doc Savage, but is more to do with making sure that Black’s choice fits the physical profile:

“Here’s the problem: They kind of gotta be tall. He’s the perfect physical specimen and when people look at him, they’re overawed by the sort of symmetry and perfection that he exudes. I don’t know that you could use like James McAvoy as Doc Savage. You couldn’t do it. He’s a fine actor, but we need someone big. Back in the day Schwarzenegger was talked about to play Doc Savage. I don’t know who we’d get.”

Black probably won’t be short of people yelling suggestions at him (feel free to shout out your own), and while he didn’t respond directly to suggestions of actors like Vin Diesel and Tom Hardy, he seemed amenable to the suggestion of Thor: The Dark World star Chris Hemsworth, replying, “That’s not a bad idea. What’s he doing?

Sony’s president of production Hannah Minghella has previously said that the studio intends to turn Doc Savage into a franchise that will be built “from the ground up,” but actual plans for sequels will almost certainly be put on hold until the first movie has been tested at the box office. Disney’s recent financial calamity The Lone Ranger has given Sony plenty of reason to play Doc Savage a little cautiously, since it demonstrated that classic pulp fiction characters aren’t necessarily an easy sell nowadays.

Black’s description of the script for Doc Savage raises a tricky question: should the source material for such classic characters be treated as sacred or should writers and directors always (like Doc Savage himself) simply strive towards the best possible end result, even if it means altering the protagonist a little?


We’ll keep you updated on Doc Savage as the project develops.

Source: IGN (via ComingSoon)

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  1. I don’t know why but I could see Joaquin Phoenix in the role.

    I like that he’s such a perfectionist, he’s become flawed because of it. It means that no matter what he does, no matter what greatness he could achieve, he’ll never be truly satisfied and will always be annoyed with himself if he doesn’t go one better next time.

  2. Jon Hamm would fit the look well.

  3. Doc should look exactly like the james bama artwork depictions of him. The helpers should also look like the characters oin the back of the old bantam Book paperbacks showing the Fab 5. And don’t forget Pat savage as well! I am a big fan of sticking to the source material as much as possible. I am really pumped for this, despite being mad at Black for the IM “mandarin thing”. This is his chance to redeem himself. In picking the actor, they should remember that Doc was darned-near intellectually and emotionally perfect as well as nearly physically perfect. Someone who is all big or brawny like Schwartzenwhager would not work, because he looks, acts, sounds, and is as dumb as a brick, and can only rmember 3 words at a time in his lines. No, they need to select this actor very carefully, or the whole thing will cave in. I wish I had a good suggestion for an actor, but I really don’t at the moment. But to get an idea what he should look like, I reiterrate: go back and look at the cover pics of Doc Savage from the bantam books that came out in, I believe, the 70′s. Those would make Mr. Robeson (Lester Dent) proud!

    IF–a big IF–this goes off good, then I hope someone would buy the rights to the Green Hornet, and do one of those right, using the series from the 60s or 70s as a model, since that was very good over-all. And maybe later Jungle Jim?

    • i agree with you that it should be a man that fits the build of the bama covers of the 60′s and 70′s ! i think the ,man who plays THOR WOULD BE GOOD FOR THE LOOKS ,BUT NOT SURE IF HE WOULD FIT THE ROLE! i also hope they would sell the rights to the GREEN HORNET and someone with a little guts would make it as good or better than the 60′s version!

  4. Maybe the studio marketing departments should find a way to educate the general audience about who these characters are. I am 37 and don’t know very much about the Lone Ranger or Doc Savage.

    • I am 55 and remember when I was a kid, we had the comics heroes, of course, but we also had kind of “semi-forgotten heroes” like Doc Savage, The Green Hornet, The Phantom, Tarzan, Zorro, Bomba The Jungle Boy, and Jungle Jim. Some were in old movies and serials in black and white on TV, and some were in pulp magazines. They were great back then, and nostalgia-wise can still be very enjoyable as “period pieces”. However, to those who have not been exposed to them and are more used to the more modern special effects, heroes “powerful-beyond-powerful”, CGI and computerized video effects, they will seem perhaps kind of blase’ to some. Still have a lot of potential for films, tho, if done correctly with great respect for the time periods and characters represented therein.

      • Oh yes, we did have The Lone Ranger as well.

    • Sanctum Press has been reprinting Doc Savage novels for several years and they’re selling just fine. You can probably order them at a comics shop or online.

  5. After what Black did in Iron Man3 to the Mandarin, I shutter to think what he’s going to do with Doc Savage.

    And No! Shane Black never gets to live that down, not now, not ever!

    • *shudder

      Also, I hope he doesn’t live it down. It was a great twist and people who hate it will just never understand great plot twists and don’t deserve to see any more intelligent movies like that ever again.

      The hate for him, the movie and the twist is beyond ridiculous now.

      • Here here

        • Yeah, and hear hear, too.

      • Iron Man is entertainment . nothing intelligent about that :)

      • …or it could just be that it was a badly made movie with no real antagonist a piss-poor plot, bizarre (and, no, not intelligent) choices in the filming and progression of a number of scenes. All of this doesn’t even take into account the “twist” which has been done before…and much more entertainingly and effectively.

        It is not that we who hated it did not get it…We simply understood that it was crap.

        Sorry, I will continue to see intelligent films (some with twists) and appreciate and enjoy them…Unfortunately, I did not GET to see one with THIS movie.

        • +1

    • Doc Savage is Black’s one-shot chance to redeem himself for the mandarin debacle. He sure made a mess with that one. I am buying the DVD Sept. 24 when it becomes available here at my Wal-Mart store, as I have only seen trailers and read other people’s reviews, but it sounds like parts are pretty good, and other parts are a mess. Johnny Depp and his director buddy Tim Burton have pretty much consigned themselves to movie H*ll for what they did especially to the precious memory of the great original Dark Shadows with their DS mess, as well as some of their other films as well. very very over-rated. They are sitting on the hotseat of sulfer, fire, and brimstone next to Seth Rogan for what he did to the great memory of The Green Hornet with his travesty as well. There is a seat sitting there for Shane Black because of the Mandarin debacle, and the only way for him to avoid filling this H*ll-seat is to redeem himself with Doc Savage, so it had better be good (he may still have to do some time in Purgatory, we will see). Eyes are on you, Shane Black: either shine or we will shine you on!

      • Get over it. The movie is there and is amazing. All of you are like Aldrich Killian; at beginning you were excited about this movie, then ate the end you hated the guts of Shane Black who seems to fit in Tony Stark’s shoes. He even got that right. Disappoint someone and they´ll hate as their sworn enemy.

      • He used the word “relatable” which in movies like this usually translates as bringing the hero down to the producer;s level.

  6. i could see Jon Hamm playing him from Mad Men. He has that big, clean cut 50s look. Change his hair color, put on some muscle and a tan.
    Maybe Henry Cavill since he has the rugged good looks, dimple chin, and Superman build.

  7. PS: I don’t see this franchise going anywhere. If people wanted to read Doc Savage comics now they would. Its not like its the Iron Man or Batman. I see it being another Long Ranger. I don’t understand why studios think they can make a successful franchise of characters that no one is following.

    • So by that same logic, the Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk show, Iron Man movie and The Walking Dead should’ve flopped because not many outside of the minority who read comic books knew who the characters were.

      • By that logic the franchise that Lone Ranger was supposed to spur should be ongoing strong by now.

        The minority that reads comics is no minority.

        Hulk, Iron Man and Zombies have a strong following and an instant fan base. Resurrecting an old character that no one is currently following is quite different than one that has an active fan base.

  8. I hope this is a success! I love Doc Savage would love to see sequels. I think Chris Hemsworth is someone to look at. Shane Black is right, you have to get a good actor with the right like. I am glad Schwarzenegger did not Doc Savage.

    • Hemsworth is a good actor, but looking at what Doc is supposed to look like physically/facially (James Bama artwork) and how he is supposed to act, Hemsworth is not your man. You almost want someone a bit older, for starters.

  9. It’s Shane Black, so RDJ should play Doc Savage!

  10. Well, I thought I might have to straighten someone out on this subject, but Black nailed it. McAvoy is not a physical enough specimen to play this role. Hope this turns out to be a great movie.

  11. Aaron Eckhart is around 5′ 10″ tall.
    Karl Urban stands over six feet tall.
    Just a thought.

  12. I think this will suffer the same fate as John Carter. They won’t know how to market it. Also setting it in the 30s is probably bad as well. The younger generation simply has no interest in the past anymore.

    On the up side Doc has a few traits that might endear him to todays audience. He occasionally lobotomized criminals and sometimes tricked criminals into killing themselves. He did give them fair warning though most of the time.

  13. Casting Doc shouldn’t be too bad but what about Monk? Described as wider than he is tall and arms like a gorilla.

  14. Shane black will just hack this like he did with IM3 . I say he should crawl back under a rock and let someone with real talent and artistic vision do savage .

  15. I dont think setting it in the 30′s is a problem. Just recently Capt. America was set back in the 40′s and it did good box office. All of Indiana Jones movies are set back in th esame time frame as well and they all did good as well. I think with Doc Savage it may be because not many are familiar with him as an action hero or his origin. With Ironman, even though some may say hes not a top level character, I disagree, but from his comic history & the trailer of the 1st Ironman movie you knew you were getting a Marvel superhero brand. I dont think the Doc Savage brand carries a lot of weight now. Its all going to fall on the team the brings it to the screen. How well writen it is & what the director can do with the material. Case closed.

  16. James McAvoy as Doc Savage.? That would have been a total mistake. Glad to hear he has Some sense.

  17. Hemsworth ? He’s certainly got the goods to carry a franchise like this.

  18. I think Billy Zane is Free. Heard he was back from that “Blockbuster Studio Shoot” in Eastern Vulganistan.

  19. I love the fanboys so upset at Shane Black for The Mandarin twist, like he broke into their homes personally and went all Danny Mcbride on their private stuff.


    Move on. Black is a fantastic writer and a great director, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a phenomenal movie, Iron Man 3 is a great next step for a character who’s still growing. I’d love to see him nail Doc Savage. I know Fassenbender’s name gets thrown out for everything so I’d like to see him avoided in this one, but I think Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hardy could both be quite good here.

    • Seems that you are one of the few people who talks with sense.

  20. @ HARM , KISS KISS BANG BANG was cool but its no SNATCH , PULP FICTION or SMOKING ACES just saying black is way overated and it definitely showed in IM3 . He just shows the arrogance to screw with storys and characters just because he thinks he’s way more creative than he is so please someone just stop him from mangling another cult icon !

  21. as i really love iron man in iron man 1 ,read few comic books before the movie and cartoon shows (avengers: EMH)he is always portrayed as a guy who would go as far as he could go to learn about something he just found this is what i expected in iron man 3 they could have done something similar to mandarin like a scientist who wants to learn the possibilities of universe who accidentally stumbled upon alien technology ten power rings much before the new York incident as tony is the only one to go through the portal and come back they could used mandarin as a background villain who uses killian as a pawn to get to stark this is what i was expecting well i was disappointed so badly . so problem is that this is not the iron man 3 i was expecting so other ironman 3 was not that bad as 2 but after avengers i expected more

  22. The question is if they can`t find a white guy to play the role will they change his race for a black guy normally i will say no to race change we all hated dragonball evoultion but i would say know race change in this case but it could a good idea sort of

    • i sincerely hope they cast Idris Elba just to piss in the coffee of the stealth racist neo nazi fanboys out there… that and the fact that hes actually the perfect build &pedigree for the job

      • “Stealth racists?” Folks that dared to complain about the casting of the likes of Samuel L. Jackson in the role of Col. Fury are hardly people that I would consider “racist” in the wide sense of things. A bit (!) animated regarding which version of the character they’d prefer (616 U or Ultimate U) is one thing; charges of “stealth racism” are quite the intellectual chasm to try and bridge, however. And as we all know by now, Jackson pulled off Fury with aplomb and verve.

        Doc Savage, however, is an entirely different creature, and ought to be subjected neither to the cultural winds of racism OR political correctness.

        I happen to LOVE Elba, but I’m unsure if casting him in this role (acting chops and physicality aside) is a wise move.

        Does this make me a “stealth racist?”

  23. Wait another 5 years or so and have Savage like the Hulk. Fully CG. But CG is not at that level yet. It would be hard to find a guy that looks like the Bama savages.

  24. Doc Savage is a difficult character to go from printed page to silver screen. His character is mysterious to a fault…and his lack of communication skills are purposeful. Doc would go the entire novel without revealing his inner most thoughts…because at the end he would remarkably reveal that it was his thought that “fill in the blank” villain was the bad guy after all. Lester Dent had his pulp plot that he very rarely ever deviated from…making Doc novels as easy to predict as most serial TV shows.

    I look forward to Shane Black making some changes…and perhaps even trimming the number of supporting characters [Doc's aides] to remove the excess of back story necessary to include them. Maybe, Doc should fight John Sunlight…considering John Sunlight was the only recurring foe of Doc. Perhaps having John Sunlight as in the novel The Devil Genghis, use Doc’s own inventions against humanity and Doc himself. Giving Doc the ability to brood about his own dangerous place in the world.

    As for an actor for Doc…could Jim Caviezel bulk up enough to play the character? Mr. Caviezel’s phenomenal ability to give us emotion and pathos just through his eyes is captivating. Doc’s physique needs to be intimidating, since he talks very little. It would be key to have someone who could communicate through his eyes and facial expressions. Doc can’t be the perfect human specimen as portrayed through the pulp stories. This type of character would be boring as most Superman films demonstrate. Granted Doc’s lack of emotion in the novels are a counterpoint to the very emotional and comedic characters in Monk and Ham…but the story has to be about Doc…not letting characters like Monk or Ham steal the show. Could the movie be closer to an amalgam of Doc Savage pulp hero and Elmore Leonard’s stylish plot labyrinth…in which the antagonist seemingly has a contingent for every move that Doc makes?

    Just my two and half dollars….remember inflation, two cents don’t buy much anymore.

    • Hey AdventureHouse!
      Someone commenting who actually knows the franchise!
      How about Kevin Durand, the Mercenary Leader from the TV Series Lost (if he were willing to do the bodywork).
      He’s 6’7″ and kind of inscrutable…

  25. My name is Ivan ‘Doc’ Holiday star of the new reality TV show
    I’d like a shot at the Doc Savage lead.
    5’8..225. I look like like him…& i have a Mensa IQ of 144.

  26. has to be the Rock! bronze like complexion and tall and not mr. universe ugly.

  27. Family friendly, Christmas Doc Savage :).

  28. The Bama paintings made him look like a freak. Go with the way he originally looked in the pulps.

  29. Stephen Lang who played the bad Colonel in Avatar would be perfect for the role. 5’10″, great physical build, even looks like Doc Savage.