It was announced a while ago (see The Guardian‘s story here) that Johnny Depp will star in a film of Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man (1934), the lightweight detective story that effectively ended the great writer’s brief career as a novelist but which became hugely popular as a movie series in the 30s and 40s with the combined star wattage of William Powell and Myrna Loy as husband and wife sleuths Nick and Nora Charles. The roles have since then also been played on TV by Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk (in the 1950s) and by Craig Stevens and Jo Ann Pflug in a 1975 TV-Movie pilot. Hart to Hart with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers was according to the credits ‘created’ by Sidney Sheldon, but to all intents and purposes was an unauthorised remake.
News has now been released David Koepp is set to write the screenplay, as reported over at Deadline Hollywood (which you can read here). Koepp is one of Hollywood’s busiest and most successful screenwriters, having worked several times with such major filmmakers as Steven Spielberg (four times), Brian de Palma (3 times including Carlito’s Way), Ron Howard (twice). He was also the sole credited writer of the first Spider Man film starring Tobey Maguire (after several failed attempts, including one by James Cameron) and his original screenplay Panic Room became a classy thriller starring Jodie Foster and was directed by David Fincher. Is this good news? Well, Koepp also did the script for the 1930s-set The Shadow (1994), from the classic radio character, which was quite amusing and camp but which failed to find a large enough audience. He tends to specialise in the well-made traditional Hollywood movie, but when adapting pre-existing material (such as novels by Stephen King and Richard Matheson as well as the Mission: Impossible TV series) has also shown that he is usually very respectful of the original source.
Depp is a huge star now, and with Rob Marshall on board to direct (they just did the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film together), it looks like this will definitely get produced. Depp hasn’t made many popular films which see him as a conventional romantic leading man, so it will be intriguing to see if he can become part of a domestic detective duo, or if the tone will be altered to suit his more eccentric charms … we shall see.
In the meantime, the Powell and Loy versions are all out on DVD and always worth a look, especially the first four which were all made by the teams of writers Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, director WS Van Dyke and producer Hunt Stromberg. A witty trailer for the first of the series, trading on Powell’s previous success as Philo Vance, can be found here: http://youtu.be/nSNJ-8ouQEM