Max Landis Is Pushing The Harry Houdini Biopic In A Crazy, Lovecraftian Direction

Just as 2014 is the Year of Hercules – not above all other things, mind you – there’s a really good chance that 2015 will be the Year of Houdini. Apparently Hollywood is just flipping through the "H" volume of an encyclopedia for ideas. Sony Pictures will be pushing the Harry Houdini biopic concept into much stranger directions, and they’ve hired Chronicle screenwriter Max Landis to pen the script for the untitled film.

The son of American Werewolf in London director John Landis, Max’s take on the story of the legendary escape artist will be heavily influenced by the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft, according to Deadline. While I’m generally interested in anything inspired by the gothic author, I’m not sure that the life of Houdini is the best place to inject it. I will not stand for Houdini going into the Chinese Water Torture trick and stumbling upon Cthulhu at the bottom of the cell.

Beyond the cunning bravery that made his escapes so exciting, Houdini also exhibited a skill for outing and debunking spiritualists, psychics and other touters of fraudulent services. If Landis uses this as the basis for his story, then it would be easier to insert otherworldly gods while tearing through the fabric of reality. This might open the door for some Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes-style character work, and I’m not sure that would be successful either.

Much like this project is one of several Houdini films getting prepped, the upcoming onslaught of movies involving Frankenstein’s Creature will soon be upon us, and Landis scripted the Paul McGuigan-directed version with Daniel Radcliffe starring, simply titled Frankenstein. He also wrote the stoner action flick American Ultra that will star Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, and he’ll make his feature directorial debut with the comedy Me Him Her, with Casey Wilson, Geena Davis and Haley Joel Osment. Below you can check out his spoofish short The Death and Return of Superman.

This project has been in development for quite a while, with The Wolverine screenwriter Scott Frank attached to write a script for Francis Lawrence to direct, but that ended when Lawrence went off to helm The Hunger Games. Producer Jimmy Miller is known for comedies such as The Other Guys and Bad Teacher, but has entered the horror realm with the upcoming adaptation of the hit YouTube series Marble Hornets, and perhaps that's what is driving the possible tonal shift.

There is also another Houdini biopic in the works from director Dean Parisot, which Noah Oppenheim adapted from The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero, written by William Kalush and Larry Sloman. It looks like that one will be the first out of the gate, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a certain tentacled creature was found to be holding it back.

Can you form an opinion on a Lovecraftian Houdini tale in less time than it takes the man himself to escape a straitjacket? Ready, set, go!

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.