Ben Affleck could probably make any script in town right now if he wanted to.
“The Town” may not be a giant preposterous megahit, but the reviews were great and audiences have definitely responded. What impresses studio execs when they look at something like “The Town” is a film for grown-ups that isn’t based on a comic book and that stars adults and that was made for a reasonable cost, and that seems like the Holy Grail for these folks these days.
When they turn to Affleck, they’re looking to him to make something that can be commercial, but that they can genuinely be proud of. My guess is there are snowdrifts of scripts for long-dormant properties being dumped on Affleck’s doorstep these days, and all he has to do is say yes if he wants to get one of them made.
Ken Grimwood’s “Replay” is definitely not a new property. The first time I remember hearing about the development of the novel into a film was in the mid-’90s, and at that point, it had already been kicking around for a while. I was a fan when it was published in 1987, and it’s one of those books that has stuck with me for decades, clearly, without ever revisiting it. Grimwood’s book is about a guy in his early ’40s who has a heart attack. Instead of dying, though, he wakes up in his 18-year-old body, with all of his memories of the 20-plus years that follow.
And not just once, but in a cycle that he realizes is not unique to him. The reasons why he is a Replayer, and the way he plays out these second and third and so on chances is what makes the material so powerful, and Grimwood plays riffs on this idea that you’ve never seen. Sure, the idea of being caught in a loop like that is somewhat similar to “Groundhog Day” on the surface, but “Replay” digs deeper, and the book is powerfully emotional as well as wickedly high-concept.
Reading it in my late teens, I appreciated it as a piece of fantasy writing, but the idea of getting a second shot at things with the knowledge I have now is incredibly tantalizing now that I’m 40. Yes, this is a SF film, and it’s a big hook, but Grimwood’s book was about very real things, very human drives, and it’s a great piece of source material. According to Mike Fleming, Jason Smilovic has turned in a draft that finally re-ignited everyone’s desire to get this made, and now it’s in Affleck’s hands to direct and possibly star in the film.
I’ll say this for producer Lee Rich… I’ve asked about this film over the years and I’ve heard repeatedly that “it will never get made,” and anytime a producer sticks with a good piece of material this long and keeps pushing for it, that’s a guy who means it. You don’t spend 23 years trying to make a film if you don’t care about the story you’re trying to tell, and the fact that it’s still Lee RIch producing gives me hope that this may indeed turn out to be a “Replay” worth waiting for.
We’ll keep you posted as this one comes together, with fingers crossed.
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