Drive has earned Nicolas Winding Refn more attention from the general cinephile community but, in reality, the Danish filmmaker has been crafting artistic genre meditations - infused with strokes of brutal violence and style - beginning with the first installment in his grisly Pusher trilogy back in 1996.
Refn reunited with Drive lead Ryan Gosling for the Bangkok-set crime-thriller Only God Forgives, which releases later this year. We learned last month he was lining up to direct The Equalizer featuring Denzel Washington. However, an official deal was never inked and Sony is now on the prowl for Refn's replacement.
The Equalizer's been languishing in development limbo for a while, following reports back in 2010 that The Next Three Days actor-director pair Russell Crowe and Paul Haggis were re-teaming on the TV show adaptation (obviously, that didn't happen). Things stayed quiet until last summer, with the announcement that Sony officials are quite pleased with a script draft assembled by Richard Wenk (The Expendables 2) and are fast-tracking the project to begin principal photography this April for a theatrical release a year later.
Refn was one of the directors meeting Sony about the Equalizer job, with the other named candidates including Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption), Pierre Morel (Taken) and Gavin O'Connor (Warrior). Collider is confirming that Refn will not be overseeing the movie - for as-yet unspecified reasons - and indicates that Sony remains intent on a late April/May production start date. Hence, the director hiring process is rapidly getting back underway.
Equalizer is based on Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim's television series, which ran from 1985-89. The late Edward Woodward was twice-nominated for a Golden Globe (and won in 1987) playing Robert McCall, a retired intelligence agent-turned detective who helps victimized clients threatened by more powerful individuals and forces (thus, "equalizing" the odds).
Insiders claim Wenk's script is tailor-made for Washington and refashions the title character into a solitary and monastic avenger who reigns righteous fury down on criminal scum (e.g. Washington in Man on Fire and The Book of Eli). The project shouldn't have too much trouble attracting a new director, but some of the above-mentioned candidates are long shots right now. Evans, for instance, is working on the Raid sequel Berandal; and, last we heard, O'Connor was eying the Peter Pan origins story Neverland. Expect a more concrete update in the foreseeable future.
The Equalizer remains scheduled to hit U.S. theaters on April 11th, 2014.