EXCLUSIVE: A modern Harry Houdini movie has long been a tantalizing possibility for film fans: the elaborate escapes, the trans-Pacific aviation, that (possibly) punching-related death. The last major film about the Euro-born magician came out more than a half-century ago, and it wasn’t exactly faithful to his life.
But there’s new momentum on one of the projects around town about the colorful escape artist. “Houdini,” a movie that Lionsgate's Summit is developing based on a biography called “The Secret Life of Houdini,” has attracted the interest of Golden Globe nominee Joe Wright. The director is in discussions with the studio about helming the movie, according to a person who’s been briefed about the project but not authorized to talk about it publicly. Lionsgate declined to comment.
Wright, who tackles a rather different period world in “Anna Karenina” this fall, has never directed a straight biopic. But he’s looked at complicated real lives, notably Nathaniel Ayers’ in “The Soloist” a few years ago, and also expanded into an escape tale of a different sort with “Hanna” in 2011.
He’d have a lot to work with here. Written by William Kalush and Larry Sloman, “The Secret Life of Houdini” is a comprehensive biography that makes some provocative claims, including the possibility that Houdini acted as a spy on behalf of Britain.