EXCLUSIVE: Summit Entertainment has found a director for its reboot of Highlander, the tale of a sword-wielding Scottish immortal Connor MacLeod. Cedric Nicolas-Troyan will make his feature directorial debut after serving as visual effects supervisor and second unit director on Snow White And The Huntsman. Summit is moving ahead with script by Iron Man scribes Art Marcum and Matt Holloway that hews close to the 1986 Russell Mulcahy-directed original that starred Christopher Lambert as the title character, who, after being mentored by Ramirez (Sean Connery), spends centuries dueling rivals until it’s only him and the murderously brutal barbarian Kurgan (Clancy Brown). They battle to be the final immortal who’ll influence mankind’s future. For Kurgan, that means raining hell on the world if MacLeod can’t stop him. Neal H. Moritz is producing with original film and series producer Peter Davis. Justin Lin, who once planned to direct, has stayed involved as executive producer.
Because the characters and mythology created by Gregory Widen were squandered in subsequent features, Highlander has been somewhat under the radar. The property stayed alive because of a superb syndicated series that starred Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod, a clansman of Connor. This is important because Nicolas-Troyan is as big a fan of this series, as I am. Borrowing the signature catch phrase of the movie and series, “There can be only one,” Nicolas-Troyan knew he was battling against more seasoned filmmakers. He made sure he was the best prepared and the one most steeped in its mythology. And he just learned that he is, in fact, the one.
“I have been working on my pitch for this since the summer, and when I got there I met the original producer and I just started geeking out and he loved it,” Nicolas-Troyan told me. “The first movie came out when I was a teenager in France and it was one of my favorite films of those years. I loved the series also, they shot a lot of it in France, on the Seine River. My first reaction, like everybody else, was, really, do we need a remake? Then I read the script, and I thought about how Russell Mulcahy was this super visual video director who brought the pulse of the 80s to the film so well. I started thinking about taking those great characters and matching them with a modern, visceral take, and then I was in love with the idea and I just went for it.”
He is a Comic-Con-caliber fan of Highlander, and like me, he still laments the decision by the series show runners to kill off MacLeod’s elegant love interest, Tessa, way early in the show’s run. While subsequent movies went in progressively wackier directions, the series added to the immortal’s mythology, exploring historical periods with flashback scenes set all over Europe over 400 years, and it delved into practical drawbacks like the misery of being unable to bear children and to fall in love, only to see that person age and die, while the immortal doesn’t age physically at all. Nicolas-Troyan will supervise a fast pass of the script before the film is cast for a 2014 production start. He wants to enrich the film with some of the series touchstones.
“For me, it all comes down to that first movie, but there are great themes in the show,” he said. “It’s the rare cross-genre concept that has elements of the Western, time travel, fantasy, action, contemporary. There are universal themes, but of course you need to provide the answers like the first film did. Who are these guys with swords? Why are they fighting each other? What is the prize and how are they drawn to each other? There is far more at work here I want to explore than the lightning that happens during the Quickening.”
Even casual fans know that is when one immortal beheads another–it’s the only way they can be killed–absorbing all of his life experiences, fighting abilities and strength in an electrically charged transfer process. Nicolas-Troyan will soon start casting. Ryan Reynolds had been attached to play the lead, but he dropped out awhile ago. The new helmer will likely stick to the formula of the original and the series, which cast European actors Christopher Lambert and Adrian Paul, respectively.
“Back then Christopher hadn’t done a lot of things and was just emerging, and Sean Connery, that movie brought about a real resurgence for him,” said Nicolas-Troyan. “We have to find that younger emerging guy, and surround him with a strong Kurgan, and an actor who shines as Ramirez the way Connery did in that film film.” He’s repped by CAA, Management 360 and attorney Carlos Goodman.