The world’s greatest assassin is headed to Netflix.
Mark Greaney, whose Gray Man series just became a #1 New York Times bestselling franchise earlier this year, joins a growing list of authors who are about to see their work brought to life on the small screen, including Jack Carr (The Terminal List, starring Chris Pratt, will debut on Amazon Prime) and C.J. Box (whose Cassie Dewell books are being made into a show on ABC this fall called Big Sky).
According to Deadline, who announced the news yesterday, Netflix is committing more than $200 million for the Gray Man movie, making it the streaming giant’s largest budget for any film to date.
Perhaps at least some of their willingness to spend big money on the project has to do with the fact that Joe & Anthony Russo—the brothers who directed both Avengers: Infinity War (2918) and Avengers: Endgame (2019), among other hits—will be directing and producing the Gray Man in hopes of turning it into a major film franchise. Ironically, Greaney first mentioned the Russo brothers by name to me in an interview back in 2018, saying “I really loved earlier screenplays for the story. There was one written by Adam Cozad (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, The Legend of Tarzan), and then there was one written by Joe and Anthony Russo, who at one point were going to direct it.”
And now they are.
Chris Evans (who just wrapped his run as Captain America) is attached to star as the villain, Lloyd Hansen, who hunts down former CIA operator turned gun-for-hire Courtland “the Gray Man” Gentry, who will be played by actor Ryan Gosling.
While Gosling is arguably best known for his role in The Notebook, the actor does have several action movie credits under his belt, including Drive (2011), Gangster Squad (2013), and Blade Runner 2049 (2017). Evans, of course, was a big part of the success Marvel has had over the last decade but has since taken on darker roles in recent years. Most notably, he starred as Ransom Drysdale in the hit 2019 mystery flick Knives Out.
In the books, Greaney describes his protagonist (who is a bit of an antihero initially) as mostly average height and weight, coming in around 5’11” and 170 pounds. Born and raised in Florida, Gentry becomes one of the CIA’s premier assets until he’s burned for unknown reasons and the agency turns its back on him, leaving him out in the cold and on his own—a running theme until Back Blast, the fifth book in the series. After that, Court, whose callsign is “Violator,” begins running missions again for the CIA, though he still takes the occasional side job.
One of the best franchises in print today and a must-read for fans of Robert Ludlum and Vince Flynn, it was always only a matter of time until Greaney’s series was adapted for film. In fact, years back, there was even a script written with Charlize Theron attached to play a female version of Gentry. Since then, other names have floated around, such as Brad Pitt, until Gosling landed the coveted role.
In a lot of ways, the role of Gentry has the potential to do for Gosling, 39, what Jason Bourne did for Matt Damon—who many at the time thought was a poor fit for Ludlum’s beloved character. Instead, Damon went on to anchor what’s now an iconic trilogy (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum) and one additional follow-up (Jason Bourne), and is best known for his work in that franchise. Gosling, if he can pull it off, could be up for a similar return, and with Mark Greaney still cranking out high-octane books (his next one, Relentless, comes out in early 2021), there will be no shortage of source material.
“I was very surprised,” said Greaney in an exclusive statement to The Real Book Spy when asked if he knew the announcement was coming.
“Over the past few months I’d been hearing the Ryan Gosling was interested, and the Russos were back involved (they wrote the script back in 2015), but I’ve heard so many rumors over the years that never panned out, so the Gray Man film was not on my radar at all when I got word it was happening. My agent sent me an email yesterday morning with a link to the Deadline article about the deal, and I was floored.
“The first time I heard Gosling’s name come up for the role, I knew he’d be a great fit. He has a quiet strength in films that require it (Blade Runner 2049, Drive, etc.) and I think that will be great for this role. I did read Joe Russo’s script, I actually went out to LA to meet with the Russos a few times to talk about the series before he wrote it. There have been some changes made to the script by other screenwriters since, but I loved Joe’s telling of the story and know it will be great.”
Asked to tell readers, who’ve yet to discover his character or series, what his first book is about, Greaney told me, “It’s the story of a contract killer with a conscience, who is being hunted down by a long list of enemies while trying to rescue two young kidnapped sisters.”
More than anything, Greaney expressed excitement knowing that his character is being entrusted to such brilliant filmmakers, a relationship that stretches back a number of years.
“I’m thrilled, of course, because I know my work is in great hands. I’ve stayed in touch with Joe and Anthony since we first met six years ago, and have always wanted them to direct a screen version of The Gray Man.”
Greaney—who lives in Memphis, Tennessee, and is represented by Scott Miller of Trident Media—is published by Berkley, a division of Penguin Random House. Earlier on in his writing career, he co-authored a couple of books with Tom Clancy before fully taking over the Jack Ryan series following Clancy’s death in 2013. All of his books are available in multiple formats and can be purchased wherever books are sold. Visit his official website for more information.
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.