Tonight, He Comes is one of the most unfortunately titled screenplays in a long time, and it’s been hanging around for years. Now it’s finally getting made, with Will Smith playing a middle-aged superhero who lives hard and has some PR problems. Peter Berg is going to be directing, and he has brought with him an actor from his latest film, The Kingdom: Jason Bateman.
Bateman is playing a publicist who tries to fix Smith’s image after he gets rescued, but Smith starts moving in on his wife (Charlize Theron is in talks to play that role). This sounds like a change from a script review I found here, which had Smith moving in on a working class security guard’s wife and kid. The movie has been through three directors in the last two years: Michael Mann (who is producing), Jonathan Mostow and finally Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness helmer Gabriele Muccino. I can only imagine that every time someone new comes on the original script, which as written by Vincent Ngo was reportedly very edgy, gets smoothed out a little more. Mostow and Muccino left because of creative differences – is Will Smith unwilling to compromise his superstar persona to make a real movie?
The change of the security guard into a PR guy is a telling one – this is now a guy whose job makes him a ripe target for our disdain. In the original script both men were supposedly very flawed, but I bet the idea of Will Smith stealing a working class guy’s wife just felt like too much.
I do feel better with Peter Berg onboard, though – he’s a no bullshit filmmaker. I hope that he is able to keep this film as dark and strange as the script is supposed to be. Still, it looks like a perfect example of how Hollywood sees good material, loves it, and then makes it completely unrecognizable.