Producer plans live-action film based on toy soldier

Lorenzo di Bonaventura has been recruited by Hasbro to make a movie deal for G.I. Joe, the venerable fighting man from head to toe.

The producer has secured the rights from the toymaker and this week will pitch a live-action film based on a toy that has been a staple of male American youth culture since 1964.

Di Bonaventura was drafted by Hasbro for the assignment because of his experience as a Warner Bros. executive in managing such franchises as “The Matrix,” “Harry Potter,” “Scooby-Doo” and the “Batman” films. Hasbro produced a line of Caped Crusader dolls and execs saw sales jump sharply each time a Batmovie was released.

“I knew of Lorenzo through his past work, and discovered that he understands this character and where we want to take Joe in the future,” said Brian Goldner, president of Hasbro’s U.S. Toys Segment.

“The brand has been around 40 years, and few things are so rich in tradition that just every person knows who G.I. Joe is,” di Bonaventura said.

He didn’t immediately say yes. He’d been at WB when two past attempts were made to mount Joe movies. Neither worked because a brand name doesn’t guarantee a worthwhile film. He agreed to go forward after being assured by Hasbro brass that he’d have the latitude to build a real drama around the character.

“Hasbro reached out to me, and they understand that you have to allow a cinematic experience and not put constraints on what could be done with the character,” he said. “We’ve worked for three months to create a narrative structure that works.”

Joe began in 1964 as a salute to soldiers, but has broadened to include figures devoted to rescue workers, cops and firefighters. Hasbro produced G.I. Joe dolls devoted to honor Bob Hope and Colin Powell. Essentially, he’s a rugged good guy.

The producer will pitch the project to studios this week along with screenwriter Michael Gordon, whom di Bonaventura and Goldner selected after reading a strong draft of “The 300 Spartans,” an epic about the B.C. battle of Thermopylae. “Michael is a fanatic about the subject matter,” di Bonaventura said. CAA is brokering the sale.

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