With superhero movies likely to hold the movie-going public's collective attention throughout the end of the year, casting updates are nonetheless surfacing for a promising project: Taken director Pierre Morel's The Gunman.
With Sean Penn starring in the international espionage thriller - and joined by Javier Bardem - the cast could add another name: Idris Elba (Pacific Rim) is in talks for a role.
The script by Dredd director Pete Travis is based on a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette and will have Penn playing "an international operative who is betrayed by the organization he works for, forcing him into a game of cat and mouse across Europe." Elba would portray another operative, named Dupont.
The project has an interesting pedigree, with Penn entering the action-thriller game and appropriately guided by Morel, who started the action-hero phase of Liam Neeson's career with the first Taken. The film is fully financed by Studio Canal and to be produced by Joel Silver (The Matrix) with Andrew Rona and Steve Richards for Silver Pictures. Despite Silver's recently-inked distribution deal at Universal, The Gunman could wind up being released by a different studio.
Elba has consistently proven himself a valuable presence in practically everything he's appeared in. He's returning for a third season of his Emmy-nominated role in Luther, reprising his role as Heimdall in this year's Thor: The Dark World and looks like he'll be one of the highlights of Pacific Rim. His unique mix of humor, charm and unquestionable authority in his performances makes any movie he's in automatically better - even in less-inspired genre fare like 2009's Fatal Attraction rip-off Obsessed.
Elba's potential addition to The Gunman points toward Silver and Morel's intention to surround Sean Penn with a first-rate supporting cast for the first in what they hope will become a franchise. Given Elba's impressive run of stellar supporting performances, he could certainly match Penn scene-for-scene, but one wonders at the fact that Elba has yet to receive a starring role in one of these types of films.
He's the central character in Luther, and while he's successfully been able to jump from television to movies and back again, he deserves a more high-profile project. With a strong year ahead of him, and with the possibility of Elba taking over the role of James Bond having already been explored, could it be time for that move to be seriously considered? While it's true that the massive success of 2012's Skyfall means that Craig will be portraying 007 for at least two more films, the role will have to be recast eventually. Don't be surprised to see Elba at the top of the list by then.
In the meantime, expect more details on The Gunman soon.
Pacific Rim opens in 2D and select 3D/IMAX theaters on July 12th, 2013.
Luther season 3 premieres September 3, 2013 at 10pm on BBC America.