If you’ve kept on top of the great genre films coming from overseas, then you’ll already be familiar with British director Ben Wheatley, whose 2011 film Kill List put him on the map with its mix of crime and the supernatural. He’s made a few other films since then, including last year’s JG Ballard adaptation High-Rise with Tom Hiddleston, and his upcoming movie, Free Fire, a feature length star-studded shoot-out, which will probably get the widest release of his career.
It makes one wonder when Wheatley might jump over to directing studio movies, and that’s likely to happen with his movie based on Frank Miller and Geof Darrow’s Eisner-winning comic book series, Hard Boiled, which was published in the early nineties by Dark Horse Comics.
Released around the same time as Miller’s Sin City, the comic follows an insurance investigator who finds out that he’s also a cyborg and possibly the last hope for the robot race. It’s an amazingly illustrated comic book that seems perfectly made for the big screen, considering how much of Darrow’s artwork has had an influence on other filmmakers like the Wachowskis.
Talking to Wheatley earlier, LRM asked him about progress on the project, a screenplay, which he’s currently in the process of writing.
“I want to bring that Darrow look to the screen as much as they did in The Matrix,” he told us. “It’s quite a challenge but it’s also that Frank Miller-y tone to it and the fun tone of the comic book, mixed with the violence. The script’s in a pretty good shape. I have high hopes for it, but I’m sure I’ll be answering questions on it for the next ten years as people go, ‘Where is it?’”
He hasn’t worked or met with Frank Miller on the script yet, but he’s currently in Chicago where he got to meet Darrow. “I’m such a horrific fanboy,” he jokes. “He’s a very cool guy, very funny, so it was a real joy to meet him.”
“It takes time, so I’ll probably shoot another movie before that happens,” Wheatley says, and what’s likely to be next for Wheatley is another film he’s written with frequent collaborator, writer/editor Amy Jump, a movie called Freakshift, once again with Armie Hammer and “if the internet rumors are to be believed, Alicia Vikander, as well.” (Hammer and Vikander appeared together in the 2015 movie The Man from U.N.C.L.E.)
Free Fire opens on Friday, April 21. Look for the rest of LRM’s interview with Mr. Wheatley, sometime before then.