Brad Peyton, who directed Dwayne Johnson movies “San Andreas” and “Rampage,” is attached to helm character-driven action thriller “Sniper Elite,” inspired by the stealth-shooter game franchise, which has sold more than 30 million units.
The movie will see an elite Allied sniper, Karl Fairburne, engage in a cat-and-mouse chase through the streets of London at the height of the Blitz during World War II, as he tries to save British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from a Nazi assassin.
The movie is being produced by Marla Studios’ Jean-Julien Baronnet and Jason Kingsley, CEO of Rebellion, the game’s producer. Baronnet is the former CEO of Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp – whose titles during his time in charge included “Taken” – and the former CEO of Ubisoft Motion Pictures, where he produced Fox’s “Assassin’s Creed,” starring Michael Fassbender.
Rebellion’s games also include “Aliens vs. Predator,” and it owns the rights to the “Judge Dredd” comic-book franchise.
Peyton, whose credits include Netflix’s “Daybreak,” is co-writing the script with Gary Graham, who came to Hollywood’s attention with his spec script “A Garden at the End of the World,” and penned a reboot of “I Am Legend” for Warner Bros.
The “Sniper Elite” movie will reveal the hidden story of Fairburne, “marrying clever, stylish action with strong characters and incredible, twisted situations,” Rebellion said. As bombs rain down on the British capital, Fairburne “will have to make a choice between the fate of the war and confronting his deepest secret.”
Baronnet told Variety that one intriguing element of Fairburne’s backstory is that he is a German working for the Allies. Another aspect of the movie is the personal relationship that exists between the opposing snipers, and the “secret reason” stopping them killing each other. “It’s a very, very character-oriented show, where our two snipers are linked by these intimate secrets,” he said.
The movie would be positioned as a “Sherlock Holmes” meets “The Bourne Identity” thriller, and would set itself apart from “traditional” period sniper movies, like “Enemy at the Gates.”
Unlike with “very dark, very deep” traditional sniper movies, Peyton and Graham had injected a “lightness” in their script, and the snipers are “lovable,” Baronnet said. Neither sniper is a “cold-blooded killer,” but “very human.” “The problem is that we love both snipers,” he said. “If you have a sniper that wants to execute his mission, but has human feelings, who has sensitivity, who is a professional but has to deal with his own humanity, that’s where it becomes interesting.”
There would also be “a very strong female character,” who is Churchill’s assistant, and London, the city, would also be an “amazing character” in the movie, he said.
Kingsley said that when Baronnet approached him about adapting the game it was clear that he understood a fundamental aspect of the game, evident since its inception. “I wanted to make a game where you have to make choices,” Kingsley said. Rather than simply racking up a huge kill count, the emphasis is on making strategic decisions that affect the outcome.
“We wanted to twist and tweak the viewers’ expectations as to what they’d get from a movie like this,” Kingsley said. This had been met by the “fabulous” script. “It’s a really, really compelling piece of scriptwriting, and great performances will be needed from the best actors we can get hold of. It’s a real, proper piece of drama, which just happens to be inspired by our computer game.” The movie would appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike.
He said that as well as being a “very skillful” director, Peyton was “very passionate about the game.” “One of the things that I’m always interested in is working with people that know the source material, and he knew the source, which was great,” Kingsley said. “Brad clearly had an in-depth knowledge of how to make a movie out of a game without compromising either. We’re not going to make a film version of the game.”
Baronnet said that they would be looking to ink a global deal with a Hollywood studio or a streamer, rather than go down the independent territory-by-territory distribution route.