This is disappointing news.
Deadline is reporting that "creative differences" have driven director Joe Carnahan from Paramount's in-development remake of DEATH WISH. At issue was the lead: Paramount-MGM wanted Bruce Willis to play Paul Kersey, Carnahan wanted someone else.
In a May 2012 interview with The Kidd, Carnahan stated that he wanted to head in a more realistic direction.
I said this in the past, that material was originally intended for Sidney Lumet and Jack Lemmon. That’s who was going to make DEATH WISH and that fascinates me, the idea of those two guys making that movie. So that’s what I’m kind of interested in revisiting and not so much the novel as so much the notion of vengeance, the notion of what it’s like to take a relatively or completely peaceful man, not necessarily a pacifist, but a peaceful man, a guy who has not known violence in his life and introduce it in such a horrific fashion that it fundamentally alters you, you know, genetically, it does something to you that you can’t undo. So it’s much more of a psychological attack on DEATH WISH...
If Carnahan was sticking to this notion, I'm not surprised he walked. While I adore Bruce Willis, if he played Paul Kersey we'd spend the entirety of the film waiting for him to start killing thugs. It'd be just like the original. Though Charles Bronson gave a fine performance in Michael Winner's film, there was no shock value to seeing the star of countless westerns and war movies picking up a gun. With Willis, the transformation from "peaceful man" to vigilante would be obligatory: "When's Bruce Willis gonna go Bruce Willis on these scumbags?". At best, this would be Willis's UNFORGIVEN - the reawakening of violence in a one-time violent man.
But let's say Carnahan cast someone like Paul Rudd. Could you imagine an amiable fellow like Rudd shooting down a violent criminal? If written, directed and performed truthfully, that would blow your mind.
I don't know who Carnahan favored for the lead, but it certainly wasn't one of the biggest action stars of the last thirty years. If this truly represents Paramount-MGM's vision of Paul Kersey, I couldn't be less interested. Here's hoping Carnahan moves on to KILLING PABLO or something similarly badass.