We reported the other day that director Mark Romanek was leaving the production of Universal’s classic horror remake The Wolf Man, citing “creative differences” as his reason. Since then it has come to my attention that in Romanek’s mind, the script “just wasn’t there.” That at least explains why he left the project, a film that had Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins locked into starring roles.

Now the question becomes less about Romanek and more about who will pick up the torch for the film, which was set to hit theaters in early 2009. The Hollywood Reporter published a fairly long list of names yesterday of directors who are currently sniffing around the offices at Universal for a chance to jump all over this project. The first name that came up was Brett Ratner, the dubiously over-hyped director of all three Rush Hour films and the final chapter in the X-Men saga. For fans, including Harry Knowles, this is the worst case scenario for Universal.

Other names that have popped up have been The Mist and Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont, 3:10 to Yuma‘s James Mangold, Hidalgo and Jurassic Park III director Joe Johnston and Dreamgirls director Bill Condon.

It is an all-star list indeed, but it could end up being more of a wishlist for the studio. The frontrunner right now, unfortunately, is Ratner. As HR reports, “[Ratner], who met with the studio Wednesday, is emerging as the strongest contender because of the fact that he has experience in taking over a project that has lost a director late in the game.” Translation: He is used to having sloppy seconds and commercializing any flick enough to put some asses in the seats. But that doesn’t mean he can make a great horror flick, does it? The closest this guy has ever come to a classic piece of cinema is his uncredited role as the “Boy lying on raft in pool” in 1983’s Scarface. Since then he has been nothing but a letdown who directs shallow, commercially friendly actioners and produces shit like Code Name: The Cleaner.

From where I am sitting, I would put in a vote for Frank Darabont or James Mangold, both of whom have proven track records and rock solid visions. They may not make the most marketable of films, but they sure as hell make some good ones. But then again, Universal probably doesn’t care what I think. They may be willing to take a sub-par script, hand it over to Ratner for a spit-shine, and then flush yet another classic remake down the toilet just after it nets big money at the box office. It is a tragedy, for sure.

UPDATE: Our friends at Collider have also reported that John Landis, who directed An American Werewolf in London has also visited with Universal in regards to The Wolf Man. I would say that Landis is another choice candidate that should be taken over Brett Ratner.

Talking Point: Who do you think should direct The Wolf Man?

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