The Rest In Peace Department gets a green new recruit…
“In comics, if you want to draw a train crashing, you draw a train crashing. You try to do that in TV and film, and someone will tell you it can’t be done.”
If that sounds cynical, then cut writer and producer Peter Lenkov some slack. When asked what the obstacles were to bring his comic R.I.P.D. to the screen, he tells MTV: “Obstacles? How about being in development hell for 10 years!”
Optioned by Universal at the beginning of the Naughties – before the comic was even published in September 2003 – R.I.P.D. suffered from a conveyor belt of ever-changing directors, writers and actors, until a number of underperforming big-budget genre tales (The Wolf Man, Scott Pilgrim, del Toro’s Hellboy movies) eventually gave studio execs cold feet.
“It’s a big movie, an expensive movie,” Lenkov says wearily. “These things don’t get greenlit unless they’re 100 per cent there on the page.”
Then, all of a sudden, it caught a break, as a trio of men perfect for the project assembled.
Robert Schwentke had directed the kick-ass adaptation of Warren Ellis’ RED, Jeff Bridges had played the bad guy in Iron Man, and Ryan Reynolds… c’mon, this is Reynolds, the wise-cracking actor behind comic heroes such as Deadpool and Blade: Trinity’s Hannibal King. After what seemed like an eternity on the shelves, there’s a little irony that it took Green Lantern to get R.I.P.D. the green light.
Lenkov has nothing but praise for Dark Horse‘s Mike Richardson, who wouldn’t let R.I.P.D. go even when the creator himself was ready to toss in the towel.
“Every time I thought this thing was going to die, Mike would keep telling me, ‘No, it’s not,’” Lenkov says. “He was really the one who kept the lights burning on this thing and who forced it through the many regime changes at the studio.”
Now that it’s finally ready for a summer 2013 release, what can audiences expect? Well, the story centres on an otherworldy police department, where an officer killed in the line of duty can come back from the dead to track down his killer. As long as he trades 100 years of service to the department – you knew there was a catch right? It seems a cop’s work is never done.
Mary-Louise Parker (TV’s Weeds) plays the agent who recruits Reynolds’ cop, while Kevin Bacon plays the film’s big bad. The X-Men: First Class actor may have a handle on the film’s tone, letting slip that he’s “a villain, but it’s much lighter. It’s funny. He’s a goofball, not a serial killer.”
In this area, Lenkov definitely has form, having penned another out-there cop drama featuring some sly humour and money-shot action sequences. That film was Demolition Man, starring Sylvester Stallone and Blade‘s Wesley Snipes.
“I remember reading an article about Walt Disney being frozen around the same time I was thinking about doing something involving cops,” he relays.
“I was really inspired by Lethal Weapon but I thought a straight-ahead cop movie would be something I wasn’t good at. I decided to throw a bunch of genres – sci-fi, action movie, satire – into a blender to see what would come out.”
R.I.P.D. opens in US cinemas on 19 July 2013 and in the UK on 30 August 2013.
UPDATE (10 May 2013):
R.I.P.D. poster and trailer promise action and fantasy