Grand Theft Auto isn’t really a video game franchise that desperately needs a movie adaptation. The games are themselves heavily influenced by Hollywood gangster movies, and one of their most appealing features is the way that they put the player in the driver’s seat and give them an entire city to go crazy in. It’s the kind of anarchic spirit that couldn’t quite be contained in a linear two-hour story.
The history of the public perception of Grand Theft Auto is an interesting tale, though, and one that BBC Films is now adapting into a true-life drama, scripted by James Wood (Rev) and directed by Owen Harris (Misfits). The film will document the Grand Theft Auto franchise’s role in Florida lawyer and activist Jack Thompson’s spirited campaign against violent video games. It is based on David Kushner’s book “Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto”, and is slated to begin filming on April 20th.
Now THR reports that Daniel Radcliffe (Kill Your Darlings) is in talks to play Sam Houser, the British video game developer who co-founded Rockstar Games and created the Grand Theft Auto series alongside his brother, Dan Houser. The film was originally titled Rockstar Games, after the company, but has since been changed to the more recognizable Grand Theft Auto – though it could change again before release.
The Houser brothers released the first Grand Theft Auto game in 1997, when they were only in their mid-twenties. Rockstar’s titles have attracted criticism for their extreme violence ever since, but have also proven to be hugely popular. The studio’s most recent title, Grand Theft Auto V, grossed over $1 billion in sales within three days of its initial release, and a PC version is set for release later this month.
Jack Thompson, who has not yet been cast, is probably the most interesting figure set to come under scrutiny in this drama. An activist who described violent video games as “murder simulators” and insisted that they were responsible for many of the ills in modern society, Thompson repeatedly filed lawsuits against Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive – claiming that the games were the inspiration behind a series of homicide cases involving young people.
Take-Two eventually filed a lawsuit against Thompson for attempting to block sales of Rockstar’s games, claiming that such attempts violated the First Amendment. The legal tousles went on for several years, ending only when Thompson was permanently disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court in 2008. It’s safe to say that the Housers came out on top in this particular fight, but it will be interesting to see Harris’ take on the moral panic surrounding Rockstar’s controversial brand of video games.
We’ll keep you updated on Grand Theft Auto as development continues.