Doug Liman the Latest to Consider Coens’ ‘Gambit’

Counter-intuitive though it may seem, it’s quite possible for a Coen Brothers script to float around Hollywood for a few years without gaining much traction. Their rewrite of the 1966 caper film, Gambit, to which they’re unattached as directors, has started and stalled multiple times, despite the variously rumored involvements of Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Ben Kingsley, Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Aniston. Now Deadline Hollywood is reporting that director Doug Liman, whose Valerie Plame drama Fair Game is scheduled to compete at Cannes, is looking to pick up the pieces. Yay?

The original Gambit was directed by Ronald Neame (The Poseidon Adventure), and starred Michael Caine as a cat burglar intent upon robbing a priceless statue from “the world’s richest man” (Herbert Lom). Unfortunately, his plan depends largely on the cooperation of a hapless showgirl (Shirley MacLaine), who just happens to look like Lom’s late wife, but nothing goes according to plan.

This sounds like it’s right in the Coen Brothers wheelhouse, but I’m less sure that it’s in Liman’s. For me, his reputation stands firmly on The Bourne Identity, which was some rock-solid thriller work that’s often and unfairly lumped in with Paul Greengrass’ lesser (and spatially incoherent) sequels. After that, I found Mr. & Mrs. Smith just passing fair for what it was, and had no kind words at all for Jumper. Perhaps Fair Game will restore my faith, but for the time being, I’m a little leery of anyone turning over a precious, precious Coen Brothers script to the man I blame for Samuel L. Jackson’s worst hairstyle ever.

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