With the Tim Burton-directed Dark Shadows being released in May Johnny Depp is currently preparing to dive back into the world of cinematic adaptations of 1970’s cult horror television. The Oscar-nominated star of Ed Wood, Donnie Brasco, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series has signed on to star in The Night Stalker, a film based on the early 70’s series Kolchak: The Night Stalker for Disney. Even more interesting is that the movie will be directed by none other than Edgar Wright, the British television and movie writer/director whose impressive resume boasts such titles as Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World.
A writer has not been chosen yet, but Wright will oversee the script’s development alongside Depp and his producing partner Christi Dembrowski. Depp has desired to make a film version of The Night Stalker since first setting the project up at Disney last summer. The studio will be pushing Wright and company to tone down the movie’s potentially horrific content with the intention of getting a PG-13 rating.
The original series starred the late Darren McGavin, best known for playing Ralphie’s cantankerous father in the Yuletide perennial A Christmas Story and Adam Sandler’s cantankerous father in Billy Madison, as Carl Kolchak, a resourceful newspaper reporter whose pursuit of a juicy story lead him to encounters with monsters, extraterrestrials, and all other manners of otherworldly phenomenon. McGavin first played the character in the 1972 made-for-TV movie The Night Stalker, which pitted the intrepid journalist against a vampire stalking the streets of Las Vegas. The film was produced by the late television impresario Dan Curtis and adapted by legendary author Richard Matheson (I Am Legend) from the novel The Kolchak Tapes by Jeff Rice. The Night Stalker was the highest-rated movie made for TV at the time so a sequel titled The Night Strangler aired the following year. The success of both movies led to the creation of a weekly series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, but the show was plagued by poor writing and cheap (even by the standards of 1970’s television) special effects and lasted only one season. Despite its abbreviated run the show would have a great influence on future genre television hits like The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
A new take on The Night Stalker premiered in the fall of 2005 starring Stuart Townsend (Queen of the Damned) and Gabrielle Union (Bad Boys II), but also didn’t survive beyond its first season.
Depp has Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger up next and Wright is currently developing The World’s End, the final installment of the “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy he created with Simon Pegg that included Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and is still attached to writing and directing a movie based on the Marvel Comics superhero Ant-Man for Disney.
Whenever Depp and Wright finally get together to make The Night Stalker, it will definitely be a movie to watch out for. Wright has consistently proven to be a director of hilarious and visually dynamic films that rewards multiple viewings and Depp can still be a fantastic actor when he has a great director and material to work with. He just played a cynical journalist in The Rum Diary and his rare book dealer character in Roman Polanski’s 2000 supernatural thriller The Ninth Gate shares a few integral personality traits with Carl Kolchak. This could a match made in Hell.