EXCLUSIVE: James Mangold is negotiating to direct The Deep Blue Good-By, mangthe 1964 John D. MacDonald novel that kicked off series of mystery novels with character Travis McGee. This has long been eyed by Fox as the deepbluelaunch of a star-driven franchise based on the beach bum McGee, a forerunner of muscular solitary heroes like Jack Reacher and Spenser For Hire, helping (and romancing) damsels in distress as he kicks ass against the powerful. The film was originally set as a star vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio. That’s not going to happen now, as DiCaprio has plenty of work in front of him and this film, with a most recent script draft by Mystic River novelist Dennis Lehane, is certainly ready to go. DiCaprio and his Appian Way partner Jennifer Davisson-Killoran are producing with Amy Robinson and Chernin Entertainment. Previous script drafts were done by Dana Stevens and Kario Salem.

Mangold, who is separately developing another Wolverine film and other projects of his own, takes a job that at one time or another had just about every top director in Hollywood mulling it. McGee is a great character. Living in sun-drenched Fort Lauderdale aboard his houseboat The Busted Flush, McGee doesn’t do much of anything until he needs money. Then, he takes “salvage consultant” jobs, recovering property for clients, taking a big percentage, and getting into misadventures along the way. The Deep Blue Good-By was the first of a terrific 21-volume novel series. Mangold is repped by WME and Management 360.