Last fall, our pals at DiscussingFilm spoke with screenwriter Richard Wenk where he first revealed he was writing a script for a re-imagining of the 1992 Jean-Claude Van Damme/Dolph Lundgren action film Universal Soldier that was directed by Roland Emmerich.
During the Vietnam War, soldier Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) finds that his superior officer, Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), has turned violently deranged, and the two fight to the death. After their bodies are retrieved, they are placed into a secret program in which they are reanimated and trained to become unquestioning killing machines. While Devereaux and Scott initially have no memory of their former lives, glimpses of their pasts start to return, rekindling their intense conflict.
Wenk’s screenwriting credits include The Expendables 2, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, The Equalizer, The Equalizer 2, The Magnificent Seven, The Mechanic and he’s currently writing a script for Sony’s Spider-Man spin-off feature film Kraven The Hunter.
HN Entertainment’s Nicholas Whitcomb was able to speak with Richard in an exclusive interview where he talked about how he got into the industry, influences, previous projects and some of his current work leading to Nick inquiring about a status update on his Universal Soldier project. Richard reveals some brief ideas they have for their slightly more grounded re-imagining along with his hope that filming could begin later this year, as he’s almost finished the script.
HN: Something that you revealed last fall was a re-imagining of the Universal Soldier for [producers] Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal, can you give a status update on where that project is at?
WENK: “That [script] is basically almost finished, I will finish it the minute I’m finished with Kraven The Hunter and we’re super excited with the draft they have. I have to do some work on it before it becomes a real movie. I’m hoping that it’ll start shooting this year, end of this year.”
HN: That’s an interesting property because like you mentioned, it’s not going to be an exact remake of what had happened [previously in the original]. There are a lot of interesting angles that you can take it in this modern day-and-age with the idea of technology and the military is trying to advance weaponry. What is your angle on that, was it science-based, grounded or more fantastical, creating super-soldiers?
WENK: “Without giving too much away, I always like to approach things from a character point-of-view and then the character itself is grounded, our Universal Soldier would be grounded but you have to take into account that in a movie like this science has reached far beyond we’ve ever imagined and the idea of weaponizing a person, a human being, a soldier, a professional, it begets a lot of drama/excitement. The idea of whether a program like that could be used for good or bad. I think we’ve sort of found the right world to put it in. It’s really a re-imagining of the idea with all of those elements that you mention, are the elements that we decided it needs to have.”
“It’s not really science fiction, it’s science fact. It’s science five minutes in the future, you know DARPA [The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] is way ahead of things we know about, a real soldier being transformed into a Universal Soldier and what that means, it’s really exciting. Again, it was a challenge, it wasn’t a world that I was used to but it’s a world I sort of embraced and especially with Jason Blumenthal, who loves the science of it all and the realism of it all. And we both agreed that this is not a science fiction movie this is a science fact movie. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that we’re not stopping to ask ‘What happens when…?’. That’s sort of the approach to the movie and like I said it [the script] will be finished very soon and hopefully goes into production by the end of the year.”
It’ll be certainly curious to see how Wenk’s version will differ from the original 1992 movie and it doesn’t hurt to try attempt another approach with a re-imagining instead of a shot-for-shot generic remake which can become less attractive than someone taking a new direction with an existing property.
Richard also talked about a couple of other film projects and we’ll be posting more segments from our conversation very soon. Stay tuned!