In a detailed history timed to the 50th anniversary of the series’ premiere, The Wrap’s Umberto Gonzalez spoke to numerous industry insiders who generally arrive at the same conclusion: the movie probably would’ve happened by now if not for Mark Wahlberg and his agent Ari Emanuel (the primary inspiration for Jeremy Piven’s combative dealmaker Ari Gold on HBO’s “Entourage”). But the as-yet-unmade film’s development history predates their involvement.
In 1995, the year Betty Thomas’ “The Brady Bunch Movie” became a surprise box office hit, Universal Pictures hired uber-geek Kevin Smith to pen a screenplay adaptation of “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Nothing came of it initially, but years later Bob Weinstein’s Dimension Films struck a deal with “Cyborg” author Martin Caidin’s estate for the domestic rights (which required approval from international rights holder Universal). With the path cleared for a greenlight, Dimension tried to move forward on a comedic take directed by Todd Phillips and starring Jim Carrey (a la Phillips’ disappointing “Starsky and Hutch” goof). This, fortunately, never came to pass.
Skip ahead to 2014, which is when Mark Wahlberg, who was a huge fan of the series as a kid, got himself attached to star as Austin. Argentinian director Damián Szifron, eager to hit Hollywood after the critical success of his “Wild Tales,” was Weinstein’s choice to helm the film, but the project could never get traction financially. In 2017, when the Dimension brand turned toxic due to Harvey Weinstein’s myriad sexual assault charges, Bob Weinstein found a taker for “The Six Million Dollar Man” in then Warner Bros. head Toby Emmerich, but even with the well-regarded Travis Knight (“Bumblebee”) signed to direct, the project continued to flounder in development hell.
There seemed to be sudden cause for hope last December when Wahlberg told Collider that David Ellison’s Skydance Media was onboard to make the star’s dream come true, but Gonzalez says “The Wrap can confirm” that there is no such deal at present.
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