The Denzel Washington-starring adaptation of the 1980s television hit The Equalizer just can't catch a break. The film's infamously troubled road to production was originally a project re-teaming Paul Haggis (Crash) and Russell Crowe (Les Miserables), but soon faced script rewrites and the departure of both its director and star. Nicolas Winding Refn (Only God Forgives) was briefly attached to direct, but soon bowed out and was replaced by Rupert Wyatt (fresh off his success with Rise of the Planet of the Apes).
Now, it appears that Wyatt himself has declined to direct The Equalizer. Citing scheduling conflicts, Wyatt has left an empty director's chair for Sony Pictures to fill just two weeks after his initial consideration.
Deadline has shared that Rupert Wyatt has stepped down from directing duties on The Equalizer because of intervening projects to which he has already committed. One of these commitments is the pilot for the AMC Revolutionary War-era spy drama, Turn. He is also set to direct the movie adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' novel, Birdsong.
Wyatt's departure leaves a massive gap in a production that was supposed to begin shortly. With an intended release date of April 2014 and a cast still in need of filling, Sony Pictures will need to move quickly and decisively to keep The Equalizer fully on track.
Airing from 1985 through 1989, The Equalizer originally told the story of an ex-CIA agent who became disillusioned with his work and quit to form a private detective agency. In a one-man reflection of The A-Team (which would in turn be riffed on by Burn Notice), agent Robert McCall (Edward Woodward) spent each episode lending his expertise to people in impossible situations. Just how the film adaptation will approach this material is unknown.
It's difficult to guess who will next be approached to take up The Equalizer's reins. Refn and Wyatt have rather different directorial styles, so there's no way to figure out what tone the production is shooting for. Will The Equalizer be a dark, pulp-influenced thriller or a slick action-adventure film? Denzel Washington has covered both sorts of films ably. What director, then, would be best-suited to steer the tale of a spy-turned-PI? And can Sony secure his or her services in time for an unrushed production?
The Equalizer was originally set to open in theaters on April 11th, 2014. If a new director can't be locked down soon, it won't be surprising if we see that date move forward.