William Monahan

The Gambler 2014 Class

When people talk about how great the ’70s were for character-driven stories, Karel Reisz’s The Gambler should be, but hardly ever is, included in that conversation. Screenwriter James Toback’s script was a deeply personal depiction of his own gambling addiction, and the leather-tough James Caan disappeared into the atypical role of a guy who could easily be pushed around. Forty years later Mark Wahlberg subverts his own tough guy image in director Rupert Wyatt‘s dense, subversive and surprisingly meta remake of Reisz’s original picture. This is a rare remake that stands on its own two feet, which is immediately established at the start of the film. There’s a reason why even the characters’ names have been altered — Axel Freed (James Caan) is now Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg). The original and this remake are almost entirely different beasts, despite some familiarity. Although a modern retelling is typically expected to be slicker and safer than its original source, this story remains faithful to its prick of a protagonist. Bennett is, by all means, an unlikable person. Not only because he has a serious gambling problem, but because he’s a character without a filter, someone who thinks he’s telling the truth but who, more often than not, is really spouting loads of bullshit.


Mark Wahlberg in The Gambler

Last year Mark Wahlberg was on a roll. He showed he hadn’t lost any of his comedic chops from I Heart Huckabees in his comically sincere work in Pain & Gain and he delivered a refreshingly unshowy performance in Lone Survivor. What followed those two performances, which displayed what a wide-range he has, was Transformers: Age of Extinction, where Wahlberg played a Texan with a slippery Boston accent. After recently trying to revisit that film — which I gave up on 20 minutes into its 20 hour hour running time — it became noticeably clear that, strangely, Wahlberg isn’t really an action star. He undoubtably has the presence for those roles, but when you look at his track record in the genre — Max Payne, Planet of the Apes, and more — he never delivers the caliber of performances we know he’s capable of. Of course that kind of material generally doesn’t offer the juiciest of characters, but nonetheless, it’s rarely a role he seems comfortable in. Where Wahlberg seems at home is in this red band trailer for The Gambler. The actor plays Jim Bennett, an English professor with a serious gambling problem. Wahlberg is stepping in the shoes of James Caan, who played the lead role 40 years ago in Karel Reisz’s original film.


Matt Damon

What is Casting Couch? It’s not so much a couch as it is a list, a list of recent castings. And it seems to be talking a lot about World War II today. George Clooney and Matt Damon must have decided that they both look super handsome when they’re standing next to each other, because not only have they already worked together on the Oceans movies and Syriana, but now Deadline is reporting that Clooney has decided that he’s going to cast Damon in his next project as a director, The Monuments Men. This is that one about the museum curators who try to save as many artifacts and works of art as possible during the Nazis’ slash and burn campaign that took place during the dying days of World War II. If Damon’s negotiations go well and he signs up, he’ll be joining a cast that already includes Clooney himself, Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, and Bob Balaban—which is enough big name actors that they should probably just cash in and rename this thing Oceans Monuments Men.


Daniel Bruhl

What is Casting Couch? It’s starting to wonder how many times Hugh Jackman can play Wolverine before his sideburns start to stick that way. Hot on the heels of the announcement that the original Professor X and Magneto, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, would be joining Bryan Singer’s X-Men: First Class sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, comes word that yet another actor from the original X-Men trilogy, Hugh Jackman, is also negotiating. This makes sense, of course, because Jackman’s brief cameo in First Class was the first indication we got that Matthew Vaughn’s reboot and Singer’s original films might actually exist in the same universe. Now that Singer has Stewart, McKellen, and Jackman on board, the only other actors he needs to poach from those first X-Men movies is…well, no one. It’s kind of amazing how well those movies cast these three guys and how poorly they cast every single other character. Hopefully this is the end of the colliding of worlds. [THR]


Todd Phillips

After dominating the world with the comedic stylings of three hungover delinquents, Todd Phillips is making the wise decision to transition into serious drama. It makes sense. There’s a whisper thin line between laughs and abject sorrow, especially the kind of laughs that Phillips is used to eliciting, and he’s the kind of storyteller that can almost assuredly handle both with equal skill. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Phillips is about to take over the seat for The Gambler from a huge name in filmmaking. Martin Scorsese was previously planning on directing from a William Monahan script (which is, you know, not a bad partnership), but now Scorsese is out and Phillips is in talks with Paramount to craft a remake of the 1974 Karel Reisz movie starring James Caan as a literature professor who demolishes his own life with a gambling addiction. Obviously, obsessed men with behavioral problems fit right into Phillips’ wheelhouse, but the question is how he’ll work Mr. Creepy into the script. If the Monahan screenplay is still in play, Phillips may have just landed in a hell of a position to surprise a lot of people. Paramount would be wise to draw up the paperwork.


Sin City

It seems like Robert Rodriguez has been promising us a sequel to Sin City since the day after the original came out in 2005. His adaptation of Frank Miller’s gritty, stylish world was unique among comic book movies at the time in how closely it stuck to being a panel-to-panel adaptation of the original graphic novels (even going as far as to bring Miller on as a co-director), and though it contained a bit too much shoddy Robert Rodriguez cheesiness, it also had enough unabashed cool that it blew the hair of comic book fans back all over the world. News of the sequel becoming official has been long-awaited. And today is the day we’ve all been waiting for. According to a press release put out by Dimension Films, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is finally on its way with both Rodriguez and Miller back in the director’s chair(s) as the main creative forces. Alexander Rodnyansky and his AR Films are the ones fronting the dough, so the film will be a co-production between his company and Rodriguez’s own Quick Draw Productions, with Dimension handling the distribution. And, of course, Harvey and Bob Weinstein have managed to get their names attached as executive producers.


William Monahan directs with his eyes closed

Writer, now director, William Monahan crafts a unique brand of hard-boiled men. The Departed and Kingdom of Heaven screenwriter never follows a guy who’s gonna throw-down and flex at any chance he gets. His protagonists are flawed, paradoxical, and in London Boulevard, even kind of feminine. Monahan’s adaptation of Ken Bruen’s novel features a sensitive lead with no interest in being a gangster, an antagonist who’s more interested in kissing the Farrell character than killing him, and every other so-called mobster in this film could not be more incompetent. Unlike The Departed, Monahan has written an anti-gangster picture. Here’s what writer-director William Monahan had to say about vulnerable men, the current state of exposition, and why the last shot of The Departed still works, even if you didn’t get it:



Earlier today I spoke with William Monahan about his directorial debut, the really fun London Boulevard (now on VOD), and while speaking with the candid filmmaker, I couldn’t help but ask about the viking epic he was initially going to write for Mel Gibson. The untitled project was announced almost two years ago; there have been next to zero updates since then, with the exception of Leonardo DiCaprio leaving the project. Is Monahan still penning Gibson’s viking epic? No, and he never did. The writer/director said that he’s no longer working on the project — when asked about it, he responded by saying, “No, no. I don’t know exactly what’s happening with that, except it’s not going on right now. I didn’t [write anything for it], and it never went past the announcement, I believe.” Anyone who’s seen the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven knows that Monahan is more than capable of crafting an epic, and the same goes for Gibson; their sensibilities would be perfect for one another. Sadly, their two grand styles won’t be colliding for this once promising-sounding project. Hopefully it’ll still happen for Gibson, though. It’s been too many years since Apocalypto, which is one of the best chase films ever made.


London Boulevard Trailer

Almost a year ago we got our first glimpse of William Monahan‘s (the writer behind The Departed and Kingdom of Heaven) directorial debut, London Boulevard, but it’s unfortunately taken a while for it to open in the states. Originally the film was going to be released by FilmDistrict, then not too long ago IFC took over distribution. While the British gangster pic wasn’t greeted with the best response, I happen to like Monahan’s debut a whole lot. This trailer, which is fairly similar to the U.K. one, is well representative. It sells the slickness and cool factor just right, where the film works best. The film isn’t as grand or as epic as The Departed, but it’s a smooth and clever directorial about a gangster trying not to be a gangster. And, yes, Ray Winstone is as fun as he looks in this trailer.



Yes, Martin Scorsese is planning a remake of 1974’s The Gambler with Departed screenwriter William Monahan (and trying hard to get Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role). Yes, the original’s writer James Toback isn’t happy that he wasn’t told about the project. Yes, he wrote a letter to Deadline saying so. But, with all due respect to Toback and the slight that was committed against him, the boring interpersonal drama of who didn’t call whom is nowhere near as fascinating as the rest of the story that he relates – namely, him selling a very personal script, finding the right lead, and the impact the film had. There are at least a half dozen times in his brief recounting that will draw either genuine laughter, or the kind that comes when no other response will do. His situation with getting his check signed at Paramount is outrageous, but it has this spark of what working in that world can sometimes be like. At any rate, it’s a compelling tale of Hollywood success and confusion that deserves to be read.



There is nothing like the hope that springs eternal for cool movie projects. The first Sin City was noir perfection with different kinds of eye candy (technical and biological) and a tapestry of a script that flew right off the pages of Frank Miller’s saturated graphic novels. Talk of Sin City 2 has gone on for far too long. It’s gone on so long that new information about it came with an Arrested-Development-Movie-sized-grain-of-salt, but the storm clouds seem to be lifting to reveal new light shining down on the sequel. Robert Rodriguez made a big noise about it at Comic-Con, claimed that funding had been found, and now The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that The Departed screenwriter William Monahan has signed on to do some work on Miller’s latest draft. That’s quite the pedigree for a polish. On the one hand, it’ll be great to have a pair of eyes like Monahan’s on the work, but it’s unclear as to whether this is uncredited doctoring or whether he’ll have the go-ahead to make significant changes if needed. Even if it’s a smaller role in shaping the story, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited for a sequel. Chief among them is Rodriguez claiming that the characters that survived the first film will make it to the sequel, and on that front, his track record of getting the talent he wants speaks for itself. Hopefully all of this comes together with relative speed, and we get a sequel worthy […]


news_london boulevard

William Monahan‘s directorial debut, London Boulevard, has been sitting on the shelf for some time now. The gangster pic got released in the U.K. last November, but we have seen no official press materials stateside. FilmDistrict was originally going to distribute the film for us American folk, but that no longer seems to be the case. IFC Films has swung in and picked up the U.S. distribution rights. With the talent involved, it could very well be their first investment to earn more than ten dollars. Considering they are a company that takes admirable chances, good for them. They will be giving Monahan’s film their usual indie treatment. First, it’ll premiere on VOD (October 5th), then later on hit limited release (November 14th). One would think a movie starring Colin Farrell would get a wider release than this, but the strategy makes sense. London Boulevard is not the most commercial film, and it’s far from a critical darling. The movie was ripped to shreds by critics in the U.K., and it’ll probably be received the same way here.


It’s really hard to get a handle on what William Monahan is doing tonally with London Boulevard in the first trailer for his directorial debut. At first, it seems like a zany gangster comedy in the vein of Guy Ritchie; Ritchie seems to be the comparison everyone else is using, and it’s understandable why they’d want to market it that way. But when “London Calling” kicks in, it starts looking more serious and more in the vein of Monahan’s The Departed.



In Boston, the only city in America with corruption and crime, a policeman’s daughter is shot right in front of him, so he tracks down answers and sets to ass-kicking.



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Things keep looking up for William Monahan. After exploding onto the scene with Kingdom of Heaven he followed it up by winning an Oscar with his The Departed script. Since then, he’s nabbed screenplay and writing credits for Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies, the upcoming Jurrasic Park IV, and now he’s set his sights on the director’s chair with his adaptation of the Ken Bruen novel “London Boulevard”.

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published: 02.01.2015
published: 01.31.2015
published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.30.2015

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