Variety reported in October 1992 that The Green Hornet was one of the properties represented by Leisure Concepts Inc., and though the trade paper said, without explanation, "rights in limbo", negotiations were ongoing with Universal Pictures. By September 1993, Chuck Pfarrer had finished the screenplay. Rich Wilkes was hired to rewrite Pfarrer's script, which resulted in George Clooney signing a pay-or-play contract. Clooney dropped out in December 1995 to star in Batman and Robin, and an anonymous source at Universal told Entertainment Weekly the following May that Greg Kinnear was being looked at for the title role. Jason Scott Lee by this time had signed on to co-star as Kato. Universal hired music video director Michel Gondry in January 1997 for his feature film directional debut. Gondry rewrote the Wilkes screenplay with Edward Neumeier, saying that "after one-and-a-half years, it was shelved by the studio. . . . We already had the designs for the cars, the weapons. . . . Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin had been signed on to produce by January 1997. Mark Wahlberg was offered the lead role, but the film languished in development hell and Gondry eventually left.
In April 2000, Universal entered early negotiations with Jet Li to star as Kato for $5.2 million against 5% of the film's gross. Dark Horse Entertainment and Charles Gordon joined Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin as producers. Christopher McQuarrie was writing a script by June 2000, but with it uncompleted by October, Li moved on to work on The One while remaining attached to The Green Hornet. After spending about $10 million in development since 1992, Universal put The Green Hornet in turnaround in November 2001, by which time Li and the producers were no longer involved. Paramount and Columbia Pictures showed interest in picking up Universal's option, but Miramax Films won the bidding that month with what Variety reported as "a deal approaching $3 million." In May 2003 the studio was working with automobile companies on product placement opportunities for the Black Beauty. As part of the deal, Miramax would receive its "hero car" and $35 million in additional marketing. The car company that would have landed the deal would be given the chance to help develop The Green Hornet, since a script had yet to be written and no director was attached to the planned 2005 release. Variety noted this figure would have tied the record $35 million deal between Ford Motor Company and MGM that featured the company's Aston Martin Vanquish, Jaguar XKR, and Ford Thunderbird in the James Bond film Die Another Day.
In February 2004, Miramax president Harvey Weinstein hired cult filmmaker and comic book writer Kevin Smith to write and direct the film, based on their previous four-film collaborations. "I dig the fact that he kicked off a run of billionaire playboys who decided to put on a mask and fight crime and that he was Batman before there was a Batman," Smith said. "I always said I'd never do a superhero film, based on my limited experience writing on Superman Lives and having to answer to the studio, Jon Peters, the comics company and eventually a director. Then there's a fandom that gets up in arms if you even try to stray from their character. Here, there is simplicity in the character and the situation." Jon Gordon and Hannah Minghella were now on as producers, with Harold Berkowitz and George Trendle, son of the character's co-creator, as executive producers.
Smith approached Jake Gyllenhaal for the lead role in March 2004. In mid-November of that year, he said he had written about 100 pages, and estimated another 100 to come. In February 2006, Smith's official website noted, "Kevin officially no longer has anything to do with the Fletch or Green Hornet projects." Smith went on to write the Dynamite Entertainment comic book Green Hornet, which has run 11 issues as of late 2010.
In March 2007, producer Neal H. Moritz, who had been trying to acquire the film rights to the character for years, obtained the rights and through his Sony-based production company Original Film optioned them to Columbia Pictures. In July 2007 Seth Rogen, in addition to starring in the lead role, was hired to co-write the script with frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg. Columbia also hired Rogen as an executive producer for The Green Hornet. Rogen in July 2007 said he had not begun writing the screenplay yet, but anticipated the tone would be that of "a buddy action movie" with humor, "like Lethal Weapon and 48 Hrs.. In September 2008, Columbia Pictures announced a June 25, 2010, release date, and that Hong Kong star Stephen Chow had signed on to direct and to co-star as Kato. Chow, a fan of the TV show as a kid, explained, "The idea of stepping into Bruce Lee's shoes as Kato is both humbling and thrilling, and to get the chance to direct the project as my American movie debut is simply a dream come true." Chow dropped out as director the following December over creative differences. On February 24, 2009, Columbia Pictures announced that Michel Gondry would direct the film, on which Chow had remained as Kato, after impressing Columbia production presidents Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach with his pitch. Gondry had previously been involved with The Green Hornet when Universal Pictures was planning its version in 1997.
Chow dropped out as Kato in July 2009 over scheduling conflicts with other projects. By this time the release date had been pushed to July 9, 2010. In August, he was replaced with Taiwanese singer-actor Jay Chou not knowing he was a famous Asian pop singer. The studio was then in early talks with Nicolas Cage to play the gangster villain, and Cameron Diaz was negotiating to play researcher and love interest Lenore Case.
Read more about this topic: The Green Hornet (2011 Film)
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