Back in November, Summit Entertainment brought on John Wick and John Wick 2 director Chad Stahelski to direct their long-gestating Highlander remake, which has been in various forms of development since Summit picked up the rights to the franchise back in 2008. Directors such as Justin Lin (Star Trek Beyond), Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intruders) and Cerdric Nicolas-Troyan (The Huntsman: Winter's War) had been attached to direct over the years, and at one point, Ryan Reynolds was even attached to star, before dropping the project in 2013, which is interesting since Chad Stahelski is also directing Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 2, taking over for the departing Tim Miller. Now the gestating remake seems to be on the right track, with the director revealing that he's not only developing one movie, but he's starting to put a trilogy together.
Collider caught up with Chad Stahelski while he was promoting John Wick 2, in theaters February 10. Writers such as Art Marcum & Matt Holloway (Iron Man), Cormac Wibberley and Marianne Wibberley (National Treasure) and Melissa Rosenberg (Twilight) had been attached to write the script at various points in time, but it isn't clear if other writers have been brought in since then. Chad Stahelski revealed that he's currently fleshing out the story as a new trilogy, comparing his approach to the original Star Wars trilogy.
"We're currently doing a bit of work on the overall plot structure. When I came on board, they were trying to reinvent the single Highlander property. We've gone since back in and we would like to really expand the world, so we consider the same shortcomings don't happen again that happened on the original project, meaning you have one great movie and four questionable followups. We want to develop a property that can give us, and again it's not about marketing, it's not so much about the financials, it's about how can we make a more mythological, chapter one, chapter two, whats a great way to tell this story? I think the TV series hit on a lot of great stuff wasn't in the feature, between the watchers and all the different types of immortals. How do we get this into a feature mode before we dribble it into the TV world? Well, let's restructure it in parts, let's look at it like it was a TV show, let's look at it like it was a high-end trilogy. How do we tell the story of the gathering the quickenings, the immortals and how do we really build this world out even more so than the original project. That's what we're restructuring right now. It's taking all the good stuff that we had before I was involved in the project from the script; redeveloping the script to give us really good chapters one, two and three; and expanding the world. The vision we're trying to get across and what we're trying to develop, I equate very close to Star Wars. The first one is a very satisfying ending but it does leave the door open and that's kind of how I see this. I would really like to expand it over three. I see the gathering happening over three. It's tricky don't get me wrong, that's why we're still developing it. We want to be able to tell three complete stories that all kind of fit. I think the Star Wars trilogy, at least up to The Empire Strikes Back, is a good example of how we want to process it."
After the success of John Wick, which served as Chad Stahelski's directorial debut, the filmmaker was quite in demand, returning to direct John Wick 2 and Deadpool 2, while also recently teasing that he's in the early stages of crafting the story for John Wick 3. There had been talk that Tom Cruise and Dave Bautista were being eyed for roles, but that was before Chad Stahelski came aboard, and as of now, no cast members have been announced. While it may be some time before we get any confirmation on the casting, Chad Stahelski also teased that the studio wanted him to bring his same sensibilities with the type of gun scenes in John Wick and John Wick 2, which the filmmaker dubbed "gun-fu" in a recent John Wick 2 preview, to the swordplay scenes in Highlander, while also stating that he doesn't know yet if the film will be R-rated or not."Thus far the people in charge of the pocket book and all that, they've asked [the rating question] and I said, 'Look, the way I work, the way we did John Wick, we never set about making a hardcore rated-R action movie, we said we're going to do this, this is the design we want to do, this is what we feel is fun. If heads coming apart is an R, great. If heads coming apart is a PG, great. Ratings are second to what we're going to do. Highlander, I think the action, at least what's in my head, is going to fall on a line, for sure. We want to design it what we think is aesthetically cool, and so far I've met no resistance, they're like, 'Look, whatever you did with John Wick with the gun stuff, we want you to try and do with the sword stuff.' We want you to make something cool and something unique, and something that's going to make audiences say 'Wow, I haven't seen that before.' So I think that's the road they're letting me go down and what side of the line it falls on... I certainly don't want to be gory for gory's sake, and I don't want to be clean for clean's sake. We're not trying to hit four corners, we want to make great urban myth that goes through time, and we'll see where that lands."
The original Highlander movie hit theaters in 1986, starring Christopher Lambert as the title character, which spawned a number of sequels and TV shows, with 2007's Highlander: The Source, starring Adrian Paul, serving as the most recent installment. One of the most iconic elements from the original movie was the soundtrack that featured the music of Queen. The director revealed he wants to find some way of bringing the "essence" of that soundtrack back for this reboot, and that he's already working with John Wick composer Tyler Bates on early designs for the score."The tone of the first one just hit at that weird music video edge in the 80s that had Queen and for some reason, Queen just fits. I don't think you can do Highlander and bring about that kind of tone again with the mythological world and take it too seriously. Just as we did with Wick, you can't kill 80 people over a puppy and take yourself seriously. We got to let the audience know that we're having fun and that there is a world here. Point being I can't see Highlander without Queen, without the queen center, without having Freddy Mercury, Prince of the Universe, and all this stuff. I can't picture the movie in my head without it. We had a great composer on John Wick 1 and 2, Tyler Bates, who we think is one of the best in the business especially for meta-reality, Guardians of the Galaxy, 300, John Wick. I've already talked extensively with him about how can we take the magic of what Freddie Mercury and Queen gave us and how can we transpose that to modern day and give us that edge?"
No production schedule has been given for this Highlander remake, and Summit Entertainment has yet to issue a release date at this time. It seems likely that the director will start work on Deadpool 2, which is believed to go before cameras this summer, before he starts shooting Highlander, but perhaps we'll get a more concrete production schedule and a release date soon. It remains to be seen when casting may begin, to see who will play Conor McLeod in this new Highlander movie.