Marvel Taps Elf, Shaun Directors

As Marvel Studios continues to line up talent to bring its aggressive slate of independently produced comic book-based feature films to the big screen, the company has hired director/actor/writer Jon Favreau (Elf, Zathura:A Space Adventure) to helm long-gestating celluloid treatment of Iron Man. In addition, Shaun of the Dead writer/director Edgar Wright has signed on to co-write and direct Ant Man, while a number of other screenwriters take whacks at such Marvel properties as The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Nick Fury and Thor.

In addition to directing Iron Man, Favreau will develop the script with the writing team of Arthur Marcum and Matt Holloway (Convoy). Nick Cassavetes, director of The Notebook and She’s So Lovely (and son of legendary indie filmmaker John Cassavetes) was previously attached to direct the film, and actor Tom Cruise was at one time considering the starring role. Screenplays have already been drafted by Smallville scribes Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, as well as X-Men writer David Hayter.

A lesser-known comic book staple created by Larry Lieber, Iron Man chronicles the adventures of Tony Stark, a driven inventor and enigmatic heir to the Stark Enterprises fortune. Like most Marvel characters, he leads a double life, commanding his empire by day and at night becoming Iron Man, the living embodiment of decades of defense spending and innovation. With billions of dollars worth of state-of-the-art armor and weaponry at his disposal, Stark fights crime, terrorism and corporate espionage. Rights to the classic comic property recently reverted back to Marvel following an unsuccessful two-year development period at New Line Cinema. Marvel will release the film through distribution partner Paramount Pictures.

Wright is currently following up his hugely successful zombie spoof, Shaun of the Dead, with a cop comedy titled Hot Fuzz, which will reunite members of the Shaun cast. He will work with writing partner Joe Cornish on the script for Ant Man, a cult-favorite comic book series about an electronics expert who can shrink to the size of an insect and communicate with ants via a telepathic, cybernetic helmet. Wright will co-produce with his Big Talk Prods. partner, Nira Park.

Zak Penn, who previously collaborated with Marvel on scripts for X2: X-Men United, Fantastic Four and the upcoming X-Men: The Last Stand, will write a new Incredible Hulk film. Under Marvel’s arrangement with Universal, Marvel will develop and produce the major theatrical release and Universal will retain various distribution rights. It’s unclear at this point if the film will be a sequel to Universal’s poorly received Hulk movie from a few years ago, or a brand-new interpretation.

After a terribly botched 1991 attempt, Captain America will get another shot at feature filmdom with writer David Self (Thirteen Days, Road to Perdition) attached. Before taking on the all-American super soldier, Self did a good deal of script doctoring for a number of studios and worked with Marvel on Namor, the Sub-Mariner for Universal, and Deathlok for Paramount.

Another Marvel superhero with military roots, super spy Nick Fury, will be adapted for the screen by scribe Andrew Marlowe (Air Force One, End of Days, Hollow Man). Meanwhile, Mark Protosevich, who wrote the upcoming big-budget summer release, Poseidon, will hammer out a script for Thor. Marvel’s take on the legendary Norse god of thunder has appeared in made-for-TV Incredible Hulk movies but hasn’t been seen much outside of the animation realm.

Buoyed by a $525 million revolving film-financing facility, Marvel is negotiating with other talent and visual effects houses to help realize its new slate of productions. Additional financing will come from Marvel’s overall distribution arrangement with Paramount. The projects will be shepherded and produced by Marvel’s president of production, Kevin Feige, and VP of Production Ari Arad. Marvel hopes to have its first release in theaters in 2008.