Two years ago, Taika Waititi was hired to take a crack at an animated Flash Gordon movie, but in a recent interview timed to the release of Disney‘s Jungle Cruise, producer John Davis told Collider that the project is now being developed as a live-action film.
“Taika is writing it. It was a movie that was a huge influence on him growing up. It is one of his favorite movies. He initially said to me, ‘Let’s do it animated.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ Then we got into it and started developing it and he said, ‘No, let’s do it live-action.’ I said, ‘Even better.'”
Flash Gordon is based on the 1930s comic strip originally drawn by Alex Raymond, who created the character to compete with Buck Rogers. The comic strip followed the adventures of Flash Gordon, a handsome polo player and Yale graduate, and his companions Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov, who travel to the planet Mongo where they come into conflict with its evil ruler, Ming the Merciless. The property was turned into a 1980 space opera film starring Sam J. Jones as the title character and Max von Sydow as Emperor Ming. There was also a Flash Gordon TV series that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel in 2007.
Hollywood has been trying to relaunch the Flash Gordon IP ever since the character was referenced throughout Mark Wahlberg‘s hit 2012 comedy Ted, and though Waititi has a full dance card work-wise — including a new Star Wars movie he’ll direct and co-write with Krysty Wilson-Cairns — the Flash Gordon movie remains a passion project for the director.
“He has the most fantastically interesting vision for this movie. And you can only know it is Taika. It is what he does. It is the way he looks at the world. He is the greatest guy in the world. He is the funniest guy in the world. And he thinks on a different plane. And this movie embraces everything that’s special about Taika, and his vision,” said Davis, who said that Waititi hopes to surprise audiences with his updated take on the character. “It harkens in a very interesting way to the original conception from the comics,” he revealed.
In terms of getting Waititi to actually direct the Flash Gordon movie, Davis feels he has an advantage over other projects vying for the filmmaker’s attention because Waititi himself wrote the script.
“Well, he’s writing it. So when somebody writes a script that they’re going to direct, they’re obviously going to really like the script, right? So you get a big leg up, right? A lot of times, you go to a huge director with somebody else’s script and he’s got to reinvent it. They’ve got to make it their own. They’ve got to… whatever. This is going to be Taika-ready,” explained Davis, who has been planning this project for years.
“I’ve been talking to Taika about this movie since I first saw his Thor,” said Davis, though his interest in Waititi dates back to 2016’s charming adventure comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
“He did this little movie in New Zealand that was just insane, that I loved… and that’s what got me interested in him,” recalled Davis. “We sat down just to talk in general. We went to a bar together with this guy, Matt Reilly, who was an executive at Fox. We started kicking around ideas. And so, this is six years in the making, right? So I’ve waited for him a lot, a lot, a lot of time, but his enthusiasm has remained steadfast. And only he’s going to be able to direct this movie because only he should direct this movie. It is special.”
With Waititi‘s soccer movie Next Goal Wins in the can awaiting release and Thor: Love and Thunder in post-production, Davis seemed confident that Flash Gordon will soon become a priority for the director, though he’s willing to wait to secure his services.
“We’ve been through the development process, not the writing process, but he’s laid out in great detail the characters, the movie, the way in, what it’s about, the tone, all of that stuff, right? And I can’t wait. And we’ll wait for him. Hopefully, we’ll get… Look, he does a lot of movies, right? Believe it or not, he can do a couple of movies a year,” said a hopeful Davis.
Curiously enough, when Collider’s own Steve Weintraub spoke with Waititi at the Thor: Ragnarok junket, the director revealed that he made all of his department heads watch Flash Gordon in preparation for making that Marvel movie, so his appreciation for the character runs deep.