Frances Lawrence Ditched ‘Survivor,’ His Futuristic ‘Sgt.

By  · Published on October 22nd, 2011

Frances Lawrence Ditched ‘Survivor,’ His Futuristic ‘Sgt. Rock’ Won’t be Happening, Will ‘Houdini’ or ‘Unbroken’ be His Next?

Francis Lawrence keeps himself busy, and it shows when you look at his untrusty IMDB page. The director’s name has been tied to a lot of projects in the past few years ‐ Survivor, Sgt. Rock, Houdini, and more ‐ but many of those films aren’t ones Lawrence will be making. In my interview with the director, we spent some time discussing what may be next for him, either Houdini or Unbroken, and why certain projects didn’t come together.

First off, Lawrence won’t be adapting Survivor, which he backed away from over two years ago. Not because the project died while he was working on it, but over a tonal issue:

“Well, Survivor ‐ I love, love, love the book. It was a friend of mine who wrote the first draft, and he did a really good job. I was trying to find the real human story in that story. Chuck Palahniuk has a very specific tone ‐ which I love ‐ but sometimes it’s hard to find a real human story in there, and that’s what I was trying to find. I couldn’t balance injecting the human into it, without losing too much of that tone; the reason to do it is, really, the tone. I couldn’t find right balance, so I eventually gave up. I wanted to give the guys who had the rights, who were desperate to go make it, the chance to go make it. I got off of it maybe two or three years ago, and they still haven’t done anything with it. I’m not sure where it sits now.”

The long in development comic book adaptation Sgt. Rock also won’t bare the director’s name. Producer Akiva Goldsman and Lawrence wanted to make a near-future war film, while Warner Bros. was interested in sticking to World War II:

“Sgt. Rock was something both Akiva [Goldsman] and I were involved in at Warner Bros. We weren’t trying to do the World War II version of it, but something in the near-future. It was really cool, and I really liked it, but Warner Bros. wanted to go back to the World War II version of it.

The recently-discussed Houdini project may be next, as long as Sony gives the greenlight.

As of right now, Lawrence is “unofficially” prepping the film. “We’re not in the official prep yet, and we’re kind of in the research phase. Most of the movie takes place just before the turn of the century, so it’s sort of figuring out how to do the turn of the century New York, and what that’s like, what the people were like, what the landscape of Manhattan looked like at the time, and cataloging all the cool kind of places we could set scenes at; all of this is while the script is being written.” Houdini also won’t be a bio film ‐ as Lawrence pointed out, “It’s not a bio pic, it’s actually historical-fiction. We’re doing a thing where we’re taking real characters from the era and putting them together in the film and creating our own story.”

If Houdini doesn’t come together, then an adaptation of Unbroken may be his next project. But if Houdini does in fact come together, Unbroken still might be his follow-up:

“I’m focusing on the project I’m on right now, but it’s between Houdini and Unbroken. I got involved in this book, this Laura Hillenbrand book, about Louie Zamperini and World War II. I’m also really involved in that as well. If Houdini falls apart, or something like that, that’s a definite possibility. If Houdini happens, then I think Unbroken would be next.”

As for the possible Constantine sequel: I somehow forgot to plead with Lawrence to make it happen, but I’m sure that it’s still in the same place it’s been for the past few years. Hopefully that, along with Houdini, will come together for the very good filmmaker.

And make sure to check back in the next week or so for the full interview with Lawrence, where we discussed his three feature films, his days in music videos, and plenty more.

Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.