American Assassin is the eleventh Mitch Rapp book written by Vince Flynn, but the first installment chronologically - as it picks up with the famous counter-terrorism operative before he was recruited unofficially, then officially, by the CIA.
CBS Films originally had plans to adapt Flynn's Consent to Kill first, but changed course after the author's Mitch Rapp prequel novel was released in 2010. There's no word yet on who will be headlining the potential franchise starter, but Bruce Willis - whose buzzed-about sci-fi thriller Looper hits theaters in a few weeks - is up to tackle the role of Rapp's CIA mentor.
American Assassin recalls Paramount's upcoming Jack Ryan reboot, as the latter also features a seasoned acting veteran in Kevin Costner, playing the mentor figure opposite a fresh-faced pre-CIA lead (Chris Pine in Jack Ryan). Assassin has an advantage in the sense that Mitch Rapp is new to the big screen; moreover, Rapp has the potential to resonate with modern audiences more than Ryan, as the former specializes in stopping Middle-Eastern terrorist attacks.
Rapp isn't as well-known as Ryan, though, which accounts for why CBS is closing a deal with Willis before securing a younger, less bankable actor to headline the film. Variety also points out that American Assassin marks the latest collaboration between the Die Hard star and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who previously worked together on RED and G.I. Joe: Retaliation (they will also begin shooting RED 2 this fall).
Oscar-winner Edward Zwick was previously onboard to direct American Assassin, working from an adapted script he co-wrote with frequent collaborator Marshall Herskovitz; the duo have since moved on to the Chinese history/fantasy adventure The Great Wall. Helmer duties are instead being handled by Jeffrey Nachmanoff, the writer-director behind Don Cheadle's Bourne-esque international thriller Traitor, as well as a couple episodes on Showtime's award-winning CIA mystery-drama Homeland. Assassin is now being penned by Michael Finch, co-writer of Predators.
Gerard Butler, Colin Farrell, and Matthew Fox were eyed to portray Mitch Rapp in Consent to Kill, but it's possible that none of them are in the running for American Assassin - given that the latter picks up with the character during his days as an All-American athlete attending Syracuse University. Filming isn't scheduled to begin until Fall 2013, so it could be a while until a definite answer is provided.
More on American Assassin as the story develops.