Imagine yourself strolling down the street one day and happening upon the notebook of a Shinigami, which allows its user to kill someone by merely writing down their name. What do you do? Well, if you’re Light Yagami from Death Note, you fashion yourself a new identity as a deity and strive to usher in a new world order, devoid of crime and violence… of course.
Warner Bros. is planning a live-action adaptation of the popular Japanese manga/anime series Death Note and has hired Lethal Weapon screenwriter Shane Black to direct the project.
Deadline says that Black will direct Death Note from a script written by Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry – the duo that collaborated with Black on his big screen treatment of the pulpy magazine hero, Doc Savage, for Sony Pictures. Black is reportedly uncertain as to which of these adaptations he will helm first, but has already confessed his adoration for the original Death Note comic book, which has already been turned into a trilogy of live-action Japanese movies.
Writer Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata are the creators of the original Death Note series, which revolves around a brilliant teenager – the previously-mentioned Light – who stumbles upon the titular item. Light soon learns that by scribbling down anyone’s name in the mystical Death Note, he can specify exactly how and when they will die. This inspires him to become a vigilante called Kira and rid the streets of thieves, murders, and crooks of all shades. But Light’s quest is soon complicated by L, an equally brilliant FBI profiler who has been recruited by the government to discover Kira’s true identity.
Black admits that Death Note is a favorite of his and that he plans to “take [the ‘Death Note’ adaptation] back to that manga, and make it closer to what is so complex and truthful about the spirituality of the story, versus taking the concept and trying to copy it as an American thriller.” That’s good news for fans who have so far been less than impressed with Warner Bros.’ plans concerning its other big screen take on a popular cult Japanese manga/anime series, Akira.
While his previous work has been primarily composed of darkly comic, pulpy crime or action thrillers, Black is a widely respected talent in Hollywood. He made his directorial debut back in 2005 with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a postmodern Noir that helped Robert Downey Jr. resuscitate his career and demonstrated that Black’s talents as a filmmaker were not restricted to screenwriting. He may not be an obvious choice to helm Death Note, but he’s certainly an intriguing and arguably fitting one.
The last we heard about Black’s Doc Savage was back in April 2010 from producer Neal Moritz, but there’s been little progress on the project since. For the time being, it seems more likely that Black will begin pre-production on Death Note first.