Can you smell what ‘The Wolf Man’ is cooking?

Dwayne Johnson as The Wolf Man?

Now I”m interested.

Of all the Universal monsters, The Wolf Man remains the most human, and while I don”t think Lon Chaney Jr. was a strong overall actor, he was perfectly matched with the character when he played Lawrence Talbot for Universal. The thing that made Chaney so right for the role was the air of sadness that he carried with him, that resigned fear of his own nature as each new full moon approached. He didn”t want to be a monster, and he fought against it as much as he could. He went out of his way to try to keep other people safe. And he was haunted by the knowledge that the only true release from his curse was death. The real Chaney seemed to have his own permanent dark cloud, so it”s hard to tell just how much of that was in the script and how much of it was informed by the casting. He was so good that even when he showed up in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, he managed to give the film a shot of pure heartbroken angst.

While I wanted to love Benicio Del Toro”s take on the character because I know how much it meant to him, I thought he was one of the most disappointing things about The Wolfman, that great big mixed bag of a movie. When he was in the Rick Baker make-up, he seemed like he was having a blast, but when he was in human form, he was detached to the point of seeming numb, and it just didn”t work. Yes, we want the monster stuff when we see a monster movie, but it only works if we”re invested in the human being who is wrestling with that monstrous nature.

Right now, we have yet to see a single film from this new Universal Monsters franchise, so it”s impossible to guess how they”re going to work. I read a draft of the upcoming Mummy film, but I have no idea if it”s current, if they”ve scrapped the entire thing, or if it even moderately resembles what they plan to film. I”ve heard bits and pieces of information, but I know they”ve had their writers room working for a while now, and there are a lot of smart people in there pitching ideas.

It was Deadline that mentioned they”ve been hearing rumors about Johnson signing on for The Wolf Man, and that would certainly be big. It looks like they”re trying to secure big movie stars for these movies, with Tom Cruise onboard for The Mummy and Johnny Depp having been announced for The Invisible Man, a title that may become a little more literal if his recent bad PR and box-office woes end up giving Universal cold feet. I”ve written as recently as last week about how The Rock is the model of the 21st-century movie star, and if they want someone who the audience automatically sides with, he”s a great call. If he is The Wolf Man, then I wonder how much of a monster they”ll let him be. Way back when they were first talking about these new Universal Monster movies, they talked about making the monsters more heroic, allowing them to be central to the franchise instead of the villains, and I can imagine a lot of ways they could do that with Dwayne Johnson playing a giant werewolf.

Right now, this one”s still in the realm of rumor, but oh, what a rumor it is.

Central Intelligence is in theaters now.