EXCLUSIVE: James Gray has been set to direct The Gray Man, New Regency’s adaptation of Mark Greaney’s thriller novel. Script was written by Adam Cozad, who also scripted the Jack Ryan franchise reboot for Paramount with Chris Pine and director Jack Bender. Targeted by a powerful multinational corporation, a former CIA operative-turned ultimate assassin must fight his way across Europe and past special forces teams from around the world in order to save the life of his handler and the handler’s family. New Regency’s Navid McIlhargey is steering the film and Shine Pictures’ Paul Webster and Stephen Garrett are producing. Webster produced Gray’s first two films, Little Odessa and The Yards.
The action terrain is something of a departure for Gray, who last wrote and directed We Own the Night and Two Lovers. He tells me he has a very specific plan to shoot the film that will distinguish it from past assassin-on-the-run thrillers like the Jason Bourne films. That is to have the point of view come from the assassin. He tried this style in the car chase scene in We Own the Night, where Joaquin Phoenix watched from the back of a car as assassins gunned down his police chief father (Robert Duvall). “Almost every shot was from Joaquin’s point of view, inside that car, and I want to make a whole movie with that POV,” Gray said. He’s a fan of Paul Greengrass’s Bourne films, but wanted a different approach than one Greengrass used so effectively. “What he did was a documentary-style objective approach, and he owns that style. I want to do the opposite, which feels like a good way to sympathize with a professional hitman. You humanize him by never distancing yourself from his experience. This story has emotional stakes that enable me to do that.” Gray, who’s repped by CAA, also has a smaller “personal” movie he’s writing. Cozad will do a rewrite on The Gray Man, and the film that comes together first is the one that Gray will direct next. Cozad’s repped by ICM and Gotham Group.