Travis Knight now becomes the sixth director to leave the long-mooted Uncharted movie – and here’s the timeline of everyone who’s come and gone so far.
Uncharted is one of gaming’s most successful franchises, so it’s no surprise that Hollywood have been desperate to give it the big screen treatment. What’s bizzare is development started back in 2008 and now, in 2020, the film has just lost its sixth director.
What on earth is going on with Uncharted and why is it seemingly in limbo? Here’s a brief timeline as to why it’s found itself where it is.
David O Russell
Hired in 2010, two years after initial development started, David O Russell was brought it to write and direct Uncharted. Once he was attached, Mark Wahlberg joined the cast as leading man Nathan Drake. He was an unpopular choice amongst fans as many were championing Drake’s real life doppelganger, Nathan Fillion, to play the role.
Things only got worse when Russell was speaking to MTV in 2011. He described the script as, “a crime family that metes out justice in the world of art and antiquities…..they’re like the Sopranos in some ways, but they have great taste, and they have a sense of justice.”
Russell also wanted a family dynamic to be at the centre of his script, a trait his movies have become well known for. Drake’s mentor Sully was going to be reimagined as his father and an uncle would also be added to the story. Recent Irishman co-stars Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci were tapped to fill these roles. For many fans of the game, these ideas were troubling, feeling that the core identity had been lost. It was using the Uncharted name but none of its ideas. The fact that Russell wasn’t a fan of the game was becoming evidently clear and many were vocally outraged by all the changes. By May 2011, David O Russell had dropped out due to “creative differences”.
Limitless director Neil Burger was brought in two months later. He was a fan of the games and made it clear outright he was sticking to the core ideas the games presented. Speaking to We Got This Covered, he confirmed he was giving the film a major redo. He said that “we’re re-writing the script from scratch, and I’m just jumping into that literally right now…..until the screenplay is written you never know who’s going to be acting in it or not.”
Fans were more at ease with this announcement. However, one year later, Burger was approached to direct the next big YA film franchise, Divergent. This was an opportunity too good to turn down in his eyes. As he bowed out, Sony brought in National Treasure‘s screenwriters Marianne and Cormac Wibberly to write a brand new script. There would be no new director cast until a draft was complete.
On February 2014, 18 months after Marriage and Cormac Wibberly were brought on, Seth Gordon was hired to direct. However, alongside Gordon, David Guggenheim (Safe House, Stolen) was hired to, once ago, rewrite the script. Gordon’s then most recent films Identity Thief and Horrible Bosses didn’t fill many people with confidence, but his work on The King of Kong, a documentary following the rivalry between two world class Donkey Kong players put some minds at ease he would be a successful choice for a video game adaptation. Production was set to begin in 2015 with a June 2016 release date. The film finally seemed to be on track. Fast forward nine months and Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker) is brought in to, you guessed it, rewrite the script once again. Chris Pratt also revealed around the time that he turned down the opportunity to play Nathan Drake.
2015 turned out to be the end of Gordon’s chances at getting a proper crack at the film.
The infamous cyberterrorism attack on Sony’s servers revealed Guggenheim’s script and the following month Sony’s new Chief Tom Rothman decided to take the film in a new direction – a much cheaper one. Seth Gordon quit and Sony hire another screenwriter, filmmaker Joe Carnahan. His version was much more R-rated as he explained to Collider.
“They swear in the game, they’re kinda foul-mouthed and I kept all that stuff intact and I definitely didn’t write it as a PG-13 movie, I wrote it the way that movie should be written”, he said. He later revealed that Ryan Reynolds was also very close to being cast in his version of Uncharted. By September 2016, Uncharted disappeared from Sony’s release schedule entirely but was said to still be moving forward with its production
Less than a month later, Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) was hired to direct Uncharted and there finally seemed to be a light at the end of Sony’s long, dark tunnel. Tom Holland was cast as Nathan Drake on May 2017. It was decided that the film would focus on Drake’s younger years, something featured partially in the third and fourth games.
As the storyline shifted into a different direction, screenwriter Rate Judkins (Agents of SHIELD, Chuck) was brought in to craft a new script at the start of 2018. Ironically, whilst Uncharted came to a standstill once again, fan favourite choice Nathan Fillion works with Allan Ungar to release a short, fan made film starring himself as Nathan Drake and featuring Scott Lang as Sully. It’s really rather good if you haven’t watched it. It’s right here…
By the end of the year, Shawn Levy decided to quit and focus his attention on Free Guy, the Ryan Reynolds-headlined film he’s working on, that’s due this year.
At the start of 2019, 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg entered the picture.
Before he was hired, it was also reported that Mark Walker and Jon Rosenberg rewrote the script yet again. Trachtenberg’s work on his short, Portal: No Escape and the video game centric Black Mirror episode ‘Playtest’ seemed to make him the perfect fit for a video game adaptation. He’d also claimed he wished he was directing this film back in 2007.
However, the match made in heaven was short lived and six months later he left the project. A new development was also that the film was going to become the first feature of Sony’s PlayStation Productions, a line of films and TV shows based on the company’s library of games. Art Marcum and Matt Halloway (Iron Man) were brought in to work with Rafe Judkins on the new script.
Travis Knight was hired as the sixth director attached to Uncharted in September 2019. His work on Bumblebee making him an even more appealing choice.
The mess Sony found itself in needed someone who knew how to handle the negativity surrounding it. Mark Wahlberg rejoined the project, this time as Drake’s mentor Sully almost a decade after he was attached to star in Holland’s role. However, just before we entered into the new decade, Knight left the project, citing scheduling conflicts. Tom Holland’s schedule is tight with him filming Spider-Man 3 this summer and Travis Knight was a casualty of this dilemma.
Despite his departure, the production has kept hold of the screenwriters and the stars of the project, so hopefully we will see Uncharted in cinemas sometime this decade and not a Part 2 follow up to this article in 2030…
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