EXCLUSIVE: One of the more highly sought open directing jobs may have just been filled. Sources tell Deadline that Leigh Whannell is in negotiations to direct The Green Hornet and Kato for Universal.
Execs have been meeting with directors over the past couple of weeks, but insiders close to the meetings felt as soon as Whannell threw his name in the mix he had the edge as the studio has wanted to get back in business with him after he delivered Invisible Man to critical acclaim and box office success.
The studio got a Green Hornet and Kato script from David Koepp early this year they are high on, and once a deal closes the film should be fast-tracked to the pre-production stages.
Universal optioned rights to The Green Hornet from Amasia in the spring of 2020, after co-founders Michael Helfant and Bradley Gallo acquired control of the motion picture franchise from the family of the original creator George W. Trendle in a competitive bidding war that January.
Helfant, the former president of Marvel Studios, and Gallo will produce the film for Amasia.
The Green Hornet was one of early radio’s most popular adventure shows (predating Superman) before being turned into 1940s movie serials (from Universal) and the 1966 TV series that introduced Bruce Lee (Kato) to the U.S. The classic story focuses on Britt Reid, owner-publisher of The Daily Sentinel. Armed with knowledge from his sources, cool weapons, a supercar known as the Black Beauty, and teamed with his trusty aide Kato, Reid became The Green Hornet, a vigilante crime fighter wanted by the police and feared by the criminal world.
The most recent movie version of the Green Hornet was produced by Sony in 2011 and starred Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz and Jay Chou. While that one mixed in a lot laughs along with fun action, sources say by going in Whannell’s direction, viewers can expect a more serious action thriller that would work toward his strengths.
Whannell cut his teeth as he helped build the Saw and Insidious franchises over the years learning from A-list director James Wan along the way. He would branch out on his own with the action thriller Upgrade for Blumhouse, which would ultimately lead to him landing the Invisible Man directing job that Blumhouse was producing. That pic was one of the few box office winners of 2020 right before the pandemic hit and put Whannell on the map as a director who can not only deliver the thrills on a film but keep it on a budget, something studio execs always love to see.
He is repped by CAA and attorney David Fox.