Is Will Smith set to suffer in Biblical update ‘Joe’ for David O. Russell?

02.28.11 7 years ago 8 Comments

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

The story of Job is a fascinating one, and if there’s any section of the Bible I feel could really work in the hands of a smart modern filmmaker, that’s it.

Right now, David O. Russell is as white-hot as he’s ever been in his career, and even if he didn’t win the Oscar this weekend, getting nominated really was the victory for him.  We talked in the most recent Motion/Captured Podcast about the way he’s rebounded after the near-disaster of “Nailed,” a dark political comedy that fell apart during production, and I’m thrilled to see how many projects he’s got lined up.  Not all of them will happen, of course, but for a director, it’s crucial that you overdevelop, because so many things can derail a film, no matter how good it sounds.

It makes sense that Russell would want to work with Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson again after the success they’ve all enjoyed with “The Fighter,” and Tamasy and Johnson just sold their new spec “Joe” to Sony and Overbrook Entertainment, with Will Smith attached to star. 

It was on the Movie B.S. podcast that Eric Snider and Jeff Bayer got the Tamasy to open up about his script and just how it was inspired by the Biblical tale of Job, as Collider noted when they pulled this quote:

Tamasy: We sold a project to Sony with Overbrook and Will Smith.  It”s a modern version of the story of Job.

Snider: Will Will Smith be playing Job?

Tamasy: He”ll be playing “Joe.”  The movie”s called Joe.  It”s about a man [who is living] the American dream.  He”s got the nice house, white picket fence, great kids, great wife, nice cars.  God and the devil get together every thousand years to bet on a man”s life, and the fate of the world is at stake.

What all of us get hit with in a lifetime, this man gets hit with in one week.  And it”s about whether or not he can still pick himself up from that and survive it.  It”s a dramedy.  At it”s heart, it”s a comedy – but it”s got, obviously, a real dramatic core to it.

I can honestly say that I would not think “dark comedy” when I think of the Book Of Job.  “Unbearably dark horror film” would be more my read of the material.  The entire notion of having your faith tested because of a bet between God and the Devil is terrifying and miserable and brutally unfair.  Job is punished beyond anything that seems rational or reasonable, and it’s all about proving that even the most God-loving person can be broken if he has everything taken from him.  These are the stories that sort of freak me out when I meet people who take every word of the Bible as literal truth.  If you honestly believe that story happened exactly as written, that is a nightmare.

I hope this isn’t played like a “Bruce Almighty,” but I doubt Russell would be capable of that sort of film.  In the meantime, he’s also developing “Uncharted,” based on the PS3 video game series, “Cocaine Cowboys,” based on the documentary, “2 Guns” and “Old St. Louis,” both with Vince Vaughn attached, and more.  He’s a busy dude right now, and Will Smith has to finish “Men In Black 3” eventually, then figure out if he’s going to make that Wachowski-scripted Robin Hood/SF film or that Andrew Niccol project “The City That Sailed,” about a magician whose daughter makes a wish that they could be together, causing the island of Manhattan to break loose and set sail across the ocean to where she waits in England.  He’s also still talking about remaking “Uptown Saturday Night” with Denzel Washington and he may well end up with an onscreen role in the remake of “Annie” that is going to star his daughter Willow.

We’ll have more on this one as it comes together, and I hope they do something really provocative with the material, as it sounds like a strong place to start.

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