The internet was all aflutter last week when it was announced that Edgar Wright had parted ways with Marvel’s Ant-Man flick, which he’s been developing possibly longer than the character has even existed. The reason given was “creative differences,” that old chestnut, but we’ll leave the superhero speculations to our more cinematically blended brethren and instead focus on what Wright might be doing instead of Ant-Man, which is making a Kolchak: The Night Stalker movie.
If the name “Kolchak” means nothing to you, well, that’s probably not that surprising since the show wrapped its run three years before I was born. (If, however, you thought, “Wasn’t that the show with the guy who was almost Aragorn?”, you are now and forever shunned.) Played by the late Darren McGavin in pair of TV movies and a single-season TV show during the ’70s, Carl Kolchak was a reporter for a Chicago paper with a knack for uncovering stories no one would ever believe and wearing the hell out of a seersucker suit. While Kolchak’s editor was forever trying to get him to just cover the goddamn city council meeting already, Kolchak inevitably wound up going off the reservation and returning with an exclusive about a still-living Jack the Ripper or marrow-sucking invisible aliens or a werewolf on a singles cruise or a homicidal android (all actual Kolchak episode plots).
The show was a big inspiration for Chris Carter’s The X-Files, and the Lone Gunmen were very much in the Kolchak tradition, even if Byers was the only one rocking a suit. In fact, McGavin himself appeared in two episodes of The X-Files, playing former FBI Special Agent Arthur Dales, the first agent to investigate the FBI’s spooky unsolved casefiles.
At any rate, Deadline reports that Wright has been developing a Kolchak flick with Johnny Depp set to play the title role. That…could go either way. McGavin was so good in the role that the thought of anybody else playing the role makes me sad — McGavin almost single-handedly bore the weight of that show, managing to sell even the most ridiculous concepts in ways that kept the show fun and, occasionally, even kind of spooky. Tossing Depp into a remake of a beloved decades-old genre classic brings to mind unpleasant memories of Dark Shadows, and then I wake up on the floor with a wooden spoon in my mouth and an off-duty paramedic trying to keep me from swallowing my tongue. That’s my way of saying that Depp’s whole “I’m quirky and in a funny costume” shtick may have reached its nadir in The Lone Ranger, but I’m not sure I want to see his version of Carl Kolchak. The guy can deliver with the right material, but if his Kolchak is another entry on the Depp Wheel of Whimsy, I foresee bad, bad things. And I don’t mean the headless biker Kolchak investigated in the 1975 episode “Chopper.”
The good news is that Wright has never really done us wrong (we liked Scott Pilgrim, thank you very much) and the script is by D.V. DeVincentis, the dude who co-wrote two of my very favorite latter-day John Cusack movies, High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank. So hopefully if this Kolchak thing does go forward, Wright will be able to get Depp to dial it back a notch or twelve. And if not, well, you can always go watch Darren McGavin do Kolchak right on Netflix Instant.