The thriller is the first in a four-part book series written by Greaney that Sony has also optioned with plans to turn the property into a franchise. (The three other books are “Dead Eye,” “Ballistic” and “On Target”).
“We think this could be the next ‘Bourne Identity’ movie series,” Roth told Variety, adding, “The Russo brothers are the most dynamic filmmakers working today.”
In the original book, a CIA operative-turned-assassin looks to evade mysterious forces as he tries to save the lives of the daughters who don’t know he exists.
The Russo brothers told Variety that while they are influenced by films and filmmakers that came out of the 1970s, they are still very much interested in making this property stand alone as its own film with no comparisons to past pics in its genre.
“We found the material to be very compelling and ultra realistic and has a great character at the heart of it,” Joe Russo said. “We are most interested in stories that are entrenched in the most modern elements that go on today and we think this book does an amazing job at explaining that.”
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New Regency previously held the rights to the book and had it in development for several years with Brad Pitt attached to star and James Gray directing. When the option recently lapsed, CAA began shopping the project and it landed with Roth and Patel.
Patel aggressively went after the Russo brothers, who fell in love with the story.
Soon after Greaney blessed the package of Roth and the Russos, Sony’s production president Michael De Luca, who apparently had been interested in the books when he was a producer, immediately chased the property and took it off the market for seven figures.
Columbia Pictures is extremely grateful to Palak Patel, Joe Roth and the Russo brothers for trusting us with Mark Greany’s incredible novel,” said De Luca. “Palak has the best taste in the business and Joe’s track record combined with the Russo brothers blistering filmmaking will make ‘The Gray Man’ a phenomenal motion picture!”
The Russos, who are currently one of Hollywood’s hottest directing duos fresh off the massive box office hit “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which has grossed more than $700 million worldwide, are in the middle of developing the story for the next “Captain America.” Sources say that will be the next project they direct since the sequel is already dated for a May 6, 2016 release.
WME, 3 Arts Entertainment and attorney Karl Austen rep the Russos.
Roth says that as soon as the Russos can deliver the adaptation for “The Gray Man,” a male lead will be sought.
Roth’s “Maleficent,” starring Angelina Jolie, bows this weekend.
CAA repped the rights to the book along with Trident Media Group.