Netflix has, for years, demonstrated a desire to be taken seriously as a film studio on every level of the movie business. Most visibly, that has come with pushes for awards show recognition on movies such as Roma and The Irishman, but the world’s largest streamer also wants you to know that it has the bankroll to create blockbuster franchises as well. And so, it will roll the dice on The Gray Man, which is intended to kick off a new action spy movie franchise and become Netflix’s most expensive film to date. Certainly, the company isn’t hurting for cash right now, given that it recently announced it had added 10 million new subscribers during the ongoing pandemic.
The Gray Man will carry a budget of $200 million or more, according to Deadline, and will star Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, being written and directed by Joe & Anthony Russo of The Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. That film of course eventually ended up with the all-time box office record, finally surpassing Avatar after multiple re-releases, and the level of ambition on The Gray Man is similarly large. Deadline says “the intention here is to create a new franchise with a James Bond level of scale and budget,” in fact.
The Gray Man is an adaptation of the 2009 Mark Greaney novel, which introduced a character called the Gray Man, “a freelance assassin and former CIA operative named Court Gentry.” This character would be played by Gosling, with Evans in the antagonist role of Lloyd Hansen, another CIA operative who is tasked with hunting Gentry down after he’s gone rogue.
“The movie is a real mano a mano between those two great actors who represent two different versions of the CIA, in what it can be, and what it can do,” said Anthony Russo to Deadline. “For those who were fans of Captain America: Winter Soldier, this is us moving into that territory in more of a real-world setting. That’s what this movie really means for us.”
Obviously, there are quite a few fans of Winter Soldier out there, as that film is regularly cited as perhaps the #1 MCU entry to date by critics. Joe Russo, meanwhile, commented on the sheer scale of that budget and how they intend to bring blockbuster-level entertainment to Netflix.
“The intention is for it to be competitive with any theatrical, and the ability to do with with Gosling and Evans is a dream for us,” he said. “The idea is to create a franchise and build out a whole universe, with Ryan at the center of it. We have all committed to the first movie, and that’s got to be great to get us to the second movie. These are master assassins, and Gosling’s characters gets burned by the CIA and Evans’ character has to hunt him down. We have a great working relationship with Netflix, and we go back almost 20 years with Scott Stuber. We formed AGBO to be an agnostic storytelling company, where we figure out the best platform. We think Netflix is the perfect place for this film.”
The film is meant to start filming in January in L.A., although it should be noted that the Russos have a pretty full slate of other projects as well. They’re currently working on a live-action Hercules adaptation at Disney, and are also working with Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions on a film adaptation of the novel Exit West. With all that, plus the ongoing pandemic still causing so much certainty, there certainly would be potential for The Gray Man to be delayed at some point. Still, with that kind of outrageous budget, you have to think the film would become a priority for the Russos.
We’ll bring you more updates on The Gray Man as they break.