Last Friday afternoon, news broke that Thunder Road has acquired the movie rights to Overwatch (2016), Matthew Betley’s action-packed debut novel, which introduces readers to Logan West, a former Marine officer who winds up in the middle of controversy when he impulsively answers a dead man’s phone.
Variety was the first to report, announcing the deal and that screenwriter J.P. Davis would be the one adapting the book to film, while Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee, and Braden Aftergood are all attached to produce.
Since releasing Overwatch in early 2016, Betley (who is represented by CAA and Will Roberts of The Gernert Company) published his second action thriller, Oath of Honor, last March. His next novel, Field of Valor, comes out on May 22, 2018, and it’s his best, most explosive work yet.
“If you think getting published is difficult, the movie business is an entirely different beast,” said Betley talking exclusively to The Real Book Spy.
“I was picked up by CAA in August 2016, more than six months before my first thriller, Overwatch, was even published. From then, we pitched studio after studio, had months of delays for legitimate and various reasons, and finally, Thunder Road Pictures picked it up. It was an emotional roller coaster, and for a former Marine who likes to make decisions and take action immediately, tried my patience over and over. “
Betley joked about failing to remain patient at times, and how he probably drove his CAA agent mad time and time again, before telling me that, “Thunder Road is a fantastic production company that has produced amazing movies, from the John Wick series to Sicario to The Town.”
“Our producer, Braden Aftergood, produced recent phenomenal movies like Wind River and Hell or High Water, and previously worked on Lone Survivor and Battleship. Our screenwriter, J.P. Davis, has a relationship with Thunder Road, and he’s a meticulous, thorough screenwriter.”
“The bottom line — the intent is to make a huge, commercial blockbuster with broad appeal, and they have the bona fides to do it. I’m also thrilled because they only acquire movies they intend to make, which increases the chances that the movie actually gets made. With a larger studio, you often run the risk of falling into what they call ‘development hell,’ where a property can languish away for years without getting made. I’m confident our team will do everything in its power to get this done and done the right way.”
Anyone who has read Betley’s books (and if you haven’t, you need to!) knows that his stuff reads like it was written for the big screen. I asked him if it was always his goal to see his novels made into movies, and he told me “absolutely,” before adding, “I write in a very visual manner. In fact – and I’ve said this before – I don’t feel like I’m an author. I put on my headset, listen to move scores (see the article I wrote on Hans Zimmer last year), see the action in my head, hear the dialogue, feel the emotion, and write it down.
“I feel more like a scribe than an author. From Day One, I’ve always envisioned these stories would make fantastic, blockbuster action thrillers. ”
As for why he was more interested in seeing his books adapted for film instead of television, Betley told me movies are “the right format for the type of action-packed, visceral, emotional roller coasters that I write. Like my thrillers, I envision a movie that will leave viewers breathless, and I know Thunder Road and Braden can do that.”
Indeed, Thunder Road has a great track record with these types of films, and if things go right–Logan West will star in the next huge movie franchise.
“The intent is to make more than one movie,” said Betley, confirming that Thunder Road bought the option rights to his whole series, “but that’s putting the cart way before the horse. As a recovering alcoholic, this is the ultimate one-day-at-a-time venture. Let’s get the first one done, and we’ll see how it goes from there. Of course, as the creator of the Logan West world, I’d love to see more than one movie.”
To close things out, I asked Betley which actor he would like to see cast as Logan West. . . but the author didn’t stop there, he also threw out a name he’d like to see play Logan’s partner, John Quick.
“Years ago, I envisioned an angry Chris Evans, think Snowpiercer, not Captian America, as Logan West. Now, I’d like to see someone like Chris Pine as Logan West teamed up with Jon Berenthal (The Punisher) as John Quick. Now that would be amazing. But those are questions that will get answered way above my pay grade.”
Be on the lookout for more movie updates in the future and, if you haven’t already, pre-order Field of Valor, in stores May 22, today!
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck is the editor-in-chief of The Real Book Spy, and one of the thriller genre’s most well-recognized critics. He currently lives in southwest Michigan with his wife and their five children. For more information, make sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook!