You would be forgiven for complaining that it seems like every time a new Hollywood rebooting of an old-fashioned character-oriented franchise is announced, inevitably either Robert Downey Jr. or Johnny Depp is sought to headline the film (see: the upcoming Lone Ranger and Thin Man movies with Depp, for proof of that).
Today’s story does nothing but lend further credence to that claim – seeing how Downey Jr. and Warner Bros. are teaming up on a reboot of the Perry Mason franchise, with the tentative plan being that the former will serve as the leading man.
Quick history lesson: Perry Mason is essentially an unorthodox investigator/defense lawyer who was imagined by pulp fiction author Erle Stanley Gardner in the early 1930s. The character has since been featured in over eighty novels and short stories, a radio series and six feature-length films in the 1930s, a comic strip in the early 1950s, a multiple Emmy-winning TV series starring Raymond Burr that ran from 1957 to 1966, the short-lived New Perry Mason TV show from 1973-74, and some 20 made-for-television films that were released during the 1980s and 90s.
Variety says that Warner Bros. and “Team Downey” (a.k.a. Downey Jr. and his wife, Susan) are producing the Perry Mason franchise reboot – along with people such as Robert W. Cort (Jumanji, Runaway Bride), David Gambino (The Invasion, Whiteout), and Eric Hetzel (HBO’s Something the Lord Made), among others.
The Perry Mason reboot will be based on an original story devised by Downey Jr. and Gambino – though, it will retain the Noir setting of 1930s Los Angeles from Gardner’s source material. Currently, the search is underway to find both a screenwriter and director for the film.
Gardner generally portrayed Mason as a better detective than lawyer – not to mention, a man who frequently took on difficult cases merely out of curiosity or on a whim. In the book “The Case of the Velvet Claws”, the character desribed himself as “a specialist on getting people out of trouble” or “a shyster” – or even “a dangerous antagonist”, depending on who you asked.
That brief description of the character probably seems somewhat reminiscent of Downey’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes – or even a Holmes-inspired “mad genius” type like Dr. Gregory House. Needless to say, Downey’s take on Perry Mason could easily end up bearing too strong a resemblance to either his version of Holmes or his Iron Man persona – albeit, if one of those characters had lived in the world of Depression-era America, that is.
All that’s to say: Downey Jr. has an undeniably charming screen presence and can play cocky yet brilliant types like no one else… but is it really necessary for either him or Depp to headline every franchise reboot that revolves around a somewhat quirky and unconventional protagonist? It certainly makes sense from a studio executive’s standpoint, given Downey’s tried-and-true bankability as a leading man, but still…
With regards to the development of yet another Perry Mason-centric project: the character has been brought to life (with fair success) in so many different mediums before, it’s not shocking to learn that Hollywood has decided to return to that well once again. Best to simply wait and see who signs on to write/direct this feature – and if Downey actually does play Mason – before jumping to any conclusions about what sort of reboot this is going to be (re: good or bad).
Rest assured, we will keep you posted on the status of the Perry Mason reboot as the story develops.