Co-writer/director Ariel Vromen's star-studded real-life serial killer flick, The Iceman, suffered a setback about a month ago (from the time of writing this) when James Franco skipped out on the project. The biopic was then reported as being on the verge of collapse, despite the wealth of additional acting talent (including Oscar-nominees like Michael Shannon and Maggie Gyllenhaal, along with decorated stars such as Ray Liotta) that were and are still attached to appear in the film.
However, matters have seemingly taken a turn for the better since then, seeing how a replacement for Franco has been found - in the form of Captain America: The First Avenger star Chris Evans.
The Iceman is based on Anthony Bruno's book, "The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer." It is actually one of two cinematic dramatizations about the life of homicidal Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski, alongside the very similarly titled The Ice Man. Mickey Rourke (Immortals) remains attached to headline the latter film, while Shannon (Man of Steel) remains set to portray the man in Vromen's project.
Deadline has confirmed that Evans is set to replace Franco in The Iceman as Robert "Mr. Softee" Pronge, the hitman who served as a mentor (of sorts) to Kuklinski. It seems as though Evans plans to continue complimenting his work on big-budget comic book blockbuster fare (like next year's The Avengers) with appearances in more dramatic indie titles, based on his signing up for The Iceman and appearance as a drug-addicted lawyer in Puncture this past fall. That approach would allow Evans to strike a balance between popcorn entertainment and artsier material.
It will be interesting to see how these two respective projects about Kuklinski approach their subject's life and their differences, in terms of tone and style. There's a precedent for multiple films about real-life figures being developed and released around the same time (see: the Truman Capote biopics, Capote and Infamous) but, in that particular case, the former was so well-received and acclaimed that the latter ended up being largely ignored, due to a lack of interest from the moviegoing community. Depending on which Iceman flick hits theaters first (and its quality) history could repeat itself.
While both these Kuklinski films read as having a good deal of potential, it's kind of hard to not give the edge (for now) to the one starring Rourke. After all, the eponymous character was a three-hundred pound family man who purportedly murdered hundreds of people for the Mob; as talented an actor as Shannon undeniably is, Rourke is not only a powerhouse performer, he also just looks the part like no one's business (see: the book cover image above)
We will continue to keep you posted on the status of both The Iceman and The Ice Man as more information is released.