Summit Entertainment has grabbed the rights to a biography by William Kalush and Larry Sloman, entitled The Secret LIfe of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero. To capitalize on the magician’s name, the studio intends to make an action thriller – potentially nothing like the real performer.
Against the views of magic historians, the controversial book painted Houdini as a spy for early British Intelligence as well as being asked to be an adviser to Czar Nicholas II’s court in Russia. Though the book has some details right, he did investigate and debunk psychics and mediums, it also suggests his death was part of a spiritual movement as payback.
The book was published in 2006 and now the feature-film rights have been acquired by Summit Entertainment.
The Hollywood Reporter says the studio is looking to feature a character, part-Indiana Jones and part-Sherlock Holmes, for their flick. Hollywood, no doubt looking to cash-in on the wide recognition of the magician’s name, has once again overlooked aspects that make the stunt performer more theatrical than action/adventure.
Houdini started his magic career in dime museums and sideshows, acting as “the Wild Man” at a circus and doing card tricks but moved on to escape acts. He married a fellow performer, Wilhelmina Beatrice (Bess) Rahner, soon after.
In the beginning, “the Handcuff King” challenged local police to restrain him with the intent of freeing himself without aid. Some of his death dying escapes include: The Chinese Water Torture Cell, a suspended straitjacket, and being buried alive. He also had a movie career: acting, producing, even serving as a special effects consultant. He even spent some time as a pioneering aviator, flying the first controlled powered flight over Australia. In the end, Houdini was a showman – it’s too bad this town wants to make him out as anything other than that.
Is a Houdini-biopic just too much to ask?