With a growing number of franchises on Marvel Studios' agenda, it's perhaps unsurprising that superheroes like Daredevil and Luke Cage ended up being allocated Netflix shows rather than their own big budget movies. It's not been too long, however, since the prospect of a big screen Daredevil reboot from Twentieth Century Fox seemed close to becoming a reality, with Joe Carnahan (The Grey) set to direct and very keen on creating a superhero movie with a retro 70s feel.
In the end, Carnahan's Daredevil failed to get off the ground for the simple reason that Fox ran out of time and the rights reverted to Marvel. Despite this, there's been persistent interest in Carnahan's vision for Daredevil, in large part due to the ultra-cool sizzle reel that he made as a pitch to Fox. In a way, the fact that Carnahan's Daredevil movie never happened only makes it more intriguing; it can remain a great concept without ever having to worry about proper execution.
Speaking in an interview with Movie Pilot, Carnahan was asked to give more details on exactly how the plans for Daredevil ended up fizzling out, and what he would have wanted to do with the character if Fox had been able to hold on to the rights.
"What people don’t realize about the DD project is that the producers of the film, got to me very late. They had a script that I read and I thought that while the action was wonderful, the story didn’t really have any additional bite. There was nothing I suggested a trilogy as follows. ‘Daredevil ‘73’ ‘Daredevil ‘79’ and ‘Daredevil ‘85’ where I was going to do a kind of ‘cultural libretto’ and make the music of those eras a kind of thematic arc . So the first one would be Classic Rock, the second one would be Punk Rock and the third film would be ‘New Wave.’
"The problem was, the option was almost set to lapse so we made an eleventh hour bid to Marvel to retain the rights for a bit longer so I could rework the script. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. Marvel wanted the rights back. I don’t blame them."
With Daredevil firmly behind him, one of Carnahan's current pet projects is an adaptation of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's limited comic book series Nemesis. The film adaptation rights were optioned by Fox in 2010, and Carnahan was confirmed for the directing job in early 2012.
Since then, however, the momentum on Nemesis seems to have eased off. The comic books (which weren't very well-received by reviewers) are about a character who is essentially the anti-Batman: a bored billionaire who uses his wealth to become a supervillain and terrorize the cop who imprisoned his parents. Speaking to Movie Pilot, Carnahan sounded passionate about the script that he co-wrote with his brother, Matthew Carnahan, but not very confident about its chances of ever getting made.
"I think the biggest challenge with Nemesis is that it’s just a motherf***er of screenplay in that it pushes a lot of buttons and does things that both expand and violate the traditional mores of the ‘comic book adaptation’ and that’s a scary conceit when The Dark Knight is considered the socio-political lynchpin of that particular universe. I think Nemesis f**ks with the genre in such a thumb-in-the-eye fashion that it might simply be something for another time and place. It’s incredibly topical and remains infuriatingly so. I chalk it up to another really wonderful script that my brother and I wrote that simply may be too smart-assed for its own good.
"My brother and I took our real inspiration from Nemesis in the fact that only one character, the bad guy, wore a costume. From there it deviates from the source material in a number of ways but what remains alive and well is Millar’s simmering disdain for the status quo and the relentless violence that characterizes the graphic novel."
Millar himself has described the screenplay for Nemesis as "relentless and powerful" and Carnahan has previously referred to it as "radical" and "inflammatory." Studios tend to value different qualities in potential comic book adaptations than the authors of the source material, however, and Carnahan's admittance that Nemesis "might simply be something for another time and place" doesn't speak to any great optimism that Fox is keen to get the cameras rolling.
Fox seems to have a wary attitude when it comes to making R-rated comic book movies. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick's Deadpool script is still waiting for a green light, despite having a director and star ready to go and assurances from the writers that it could be made for the modest budget of $50 million. Even with comic book movies as popular as they are, and films like The Dark Knight Rises pushing the boundaries of the PG-13 rating, it may be some time before major studios are ready to enthusiastically invest in non-family-friendly superheroes. Or supervillains, for that matter.