Warner Bros. has been working on a live-action film adaptation of the popular Japanese anime/manga Death Note for a few years now, but with little to show for it. Shane Black was once attached as writer/director, before he moved on to make other projects like the detective flick The Nice Guys (which arrives in 2016) - but now, the project has a proper horror filmmaker in place as director.
Death Note, for those unfamiliar, originated with the Japanese comic books series from the early 2000s (written by Tsunami Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata), and tells the story of Light Yagami: a brilliant teenager who discovers a notebook that allows you to kill anyone by writing their name down in it (assuming you've seen their face, that is), and decides to use said notebook to cleanse the world of evil-doers.
THR is reporting that filmmaker Adam Wingard has signed on to direct a live-action Death Note movie for Warner Bros., sometime after he shoots his next project (titled The Woods) this summer.
The Woods is the latest horror film collaboration between Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett, who have made a name for themselves with the cult hit horror genre throwbacks You're Next and The Guest (along with Wingard's work on the horror anthologies V/H/S and The ABCs of Death). Last year, the pair were reported to have been attached to remake the Korean horror/thriller I Saw the Devil too, but there's no mention of that project in THR's new report.
Death Note blends a terse cat and mouse story - revolving around Light and the detective(s) who set out to stop his self-righteous murder spree - with supernatural elements and dark comedy. The latter is largely courtesy of Ryuk: a death god and owner of the titular notebook, which Ryuk allows Light to find and use (because Ryuk's bored, essentially). The mix of bleak humor and crime genre tropes was what made the project read as being a decent fit for Black's sensibilities; similarly, Death Note's (twisted) coming of age aspects were thought to have been what attracted director Gus Van Sant to the project, back when the filmmaker was rumored to be directing.
Wingard, however, is perhaps the most intriguing pick to direct Death Note of the three directors reported to date. He's demonstrated a knack for handling the various tonal elements and qualities of the narrative - plus, he would bring a stronger horror flavor to the proceedings than perhaps Black or Van Sant might have. There's also now a real chance that Barrett will revise the Death Note script, possibly drawing from the previous draft penned by Jeremy Slater (The Lazarus Effect).
Heck, who knows - maybe rising star Maika Monroe (who collaborated with Wingard on The Guest) will even be approached to play Misa, a key player in the story.
THR reports that Death Note is being produced by frequent collaborators Dan Lin and Roy Lee (The Ring, The Grudge), along with Jason Hoffs (Edge of Tomorrow) and Masi Oka (a.k.a. Hiro from Heroes). Death Note will presumably be an American-ized take on the original property, as most of the producers involved are known for transporting Japanese pop culture over to Hollywood. It might be something like The Grudge, where the Japanese setting/culture remain in the story, but the protagonist is now an American. Best to wait for more information, before jumping to conclusions.
Death Note, as fans of the franchise are no doubt aware, has been adapted to live-action film in the past, but not with proper Hollywood studio production values before. It's too early to determine if this WB-backed adaptation will please (or fail to please) the established Death Note fanbase while also winning over newcomers, but thus far the talent attached is certainly promising.
We'll bring you more information on the Death Note movie when we have it.