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Bradley Cooper Will Lead a New ‘Matt Helm’ Movie

The man behind Rocket Raccoon has landed a potential live-action franchise. Whether it’ll be serious or comedic is anyone’s guess.
By  · Published on March 12th, 2018

The man behind Rocket Raccoon has landed a potential live-action franchise. Whether it’ll be serious or comedic is anyone’s guess.

There is no shortage of spy movies in Hollywood, but Paramount Pictures has been developing another one with Bradley Cooper that is sure to turn a few heads. While multiple films and a TV show based on Don Hamilton’s “Matt Helm” spy novels graced screens in the past, the studio is now determined to bring the property back with Cooper to star.

Deadline reports that a new Matt Helm film has found a scribe in Tom Shepherd, who is also notably adapting The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle for Robert Downey Jr. and Universal. Shepherd sold an Agatha Christie adventure spec to Sony, too, and worked on a Black List script back in 2012 about Marlon Brando’s struggle to win the role of Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. Shepherd seems to mostly be about literary adaptations, possibly ensuring that Matt Helm will be in decent hands script-wise. Now, will the film be a bunch of spoofs like the original adaptations, or are we getting a serious take on the books?

Hamilton’s book series, which spanned 27 novels published from 1960 to 1993, follows Helm, a World War II espionage agent who is drawn back into his old career despite having settled down in Santa Fe with his family. The first film adaptations of the series, arriving in the late 1960s, starred Dean Martin and took a more comedic approach to the material. The movies, comprising of The Silencers, Murderers’ Row, The Ambushers, and The Wrecking Crew, poke fun at the quintessential spy silhouettes outlined by other prolific characters like James Bond. The 1975 television series, which starred Tony Franciosa, was very short-lived.

Martin’s Helm adaptations left an indelible impression in that they were basically Austin Powers movies way back when. Given that Bond star Daniel Craig once bemoaned the fact that the Powers franchise caused the seriousness of his own 007 run, would a new Helm movie counteract that somberness or continue in a similar tradition? That is anyone’s guess for the time being.

Cooper actually made a tangible start in a spy series — J. J. Abrams’ Alias — but he garnered big screen attention for being a buffoon with good hair in comedy films, The Hangover series being his big break at the time. That said, he has dabbled in more serious fare, as well. Films in the horror (The Midnight Meat Train), sci-fi (Limitless), and good old drama (The Place Beyond the Pines) genres have each taken advantage of his star power. And to his credit, Cooper has turned in decent performances in all these categories.

Cooper went on to co-star in three movies with Jennifer Lawrence (even though their chemistry only really worked in one film, the rather problematic Silver Linings Playbook) which put a damper on his filmography for a while. Right now, we’re most grateful for him to be playing Rocket Raccoon in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, because he embodies that role so impressively. Matt Helm won’t really be a live-action comeback for Cooper, seeing as he will star alongside Lady Gaga in A Star is Born (which is also his feature directorial debut). But that film keeps getting pushed back, and it at least feels like we haven’t seen very much of the actor in a long time.

A new Helm adaptation would logically lead to franchising possibilities provided it’s done right. But if it goes down the serious route, Matt Helm will certainly face competition from the Bond series, especially since Craig’s last 007 movie is on the horizon. Bond could conceivably go on forever, too, potentially leaving Helm to be a flash in the pan if they were to be too similar. But Cooper’s abilities as a funnyman could come in handy in this case, too, and there’s no reason to lose hope in Matt Helm just yet.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)