Universal Pictures had a grand plan. Their “grand plan”, which they have aptly called Dark Universe, was to bring back all their classic Universal Monsters including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Invisible Woman.
This plan was derailed early on with a couple of box office failures but with the relaunching of the Dark Universe (thank you Invisible Man), Universal looks to get back on track with another recently announced monster movie: The Wolfman.
DEREK CIANFRANCE IS DIRECTING THE WOLFMAN
Universal initially reached out to Leigh Whannell — the director of The Invisible Man — to helm Wolfman. But in October 2021 news emerged that Whannell was stepping away from the project because of a scheduling conflict.
Instead, Derek Cianfrance will direct the film, and it would be surprising if Ryan Gosling didn’t have something to do with the choice. Cianfrance and Gosling have collaborated before, on the 2010 romantic drama Blue Valentine and the 2012 crime drama The Place Beyond the Pines.
Having this kind of buy-in between the director and the star is often one of the key factors in making a really successful movie. In that respect, it’s a great sign that both of them are on board.
The movie studio also convinced Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions to be part of the production team. Blumhouse is known for its smart horror films such as The Purge franchise, the Insidious franchise, Split, and Get Out among their long list of hit horror movies.
THE ORIGINAL DARK UNIVERSE PLAN WAS SCRAPPED AFTER TOM CRUISE’S THE MUMMY BOMBED
The thought behind the idea was great. The talent behind the idea sounded even better. Technically, Universal began their Dark Universe with 2014’s Dracula Untold. The movie starred Luke Evans (The Alienist, Beauty & The Beast) as Vlad Drăculea, the Prince of Wallachia who eventually becomes the Count.
Unfortunately, it didn’t hit the box office numbers Universal was looking for though that didn’t stop them from moving forward. They had, of course, a stacked deck of big names to bring forth their vision.
Perhaps Universal was overconfident. In their monster stable, they had the likes of Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, and Johnny Depp. They also had Russell Crowe, who they were hoping to bridge the movies as Dr. Jekyll.
Cruise was on board in The Mummy reboot, which we got, Jolie was to star as The Bride of Frankenstein, and Depp was along for the ride as The Invisible Man. There were even plans for The Wolfman. So, what happened? Well, Tom Cruise and The Mummy are what happened. The big box office failure (actually surprising in its failure) made Universal rethink its plans.
It was going to be a collection of Universal Monster movies that were connected by Crowe’s Jekyll, he being the leader of Prodigium, a secret society (very similar to SHIELD) that would hunt down monsters or supernatural threats. But with The Mummy’s massive critical and box office failure, the plans were scrapped. So to were any future plans for The Wolfman. Until…
THE DARK UNIVERSE FOUND NEW LIFE WITH THE INVISIBLE MAN
We now come to the present, where Universal is attempting to launch the 2.0 version of their Dark Universe. This time, though, the movies will not be connected via Jekyll and Prodigium. In fact, the movies will not be connected at all, unless one of the movies in their upcoming catalog calls for a sequel.
Now Universal is making all their monster movies as stand alones, with their first creature feature being the Elizabeth Moss hit, The Invisible Man. The second will be The Wolfman.
The Invisible Man with Elizabeth Moss was a major hit, scoring more than $144 million at the box office on just a $7 million budget. That’s a *ahem* monster win for the franchise and why the studio has felt more confident with the plan going forward.
RYAN GOSLING IS THE WOLFMAN’S NEW STAR
Ryan Gosling coming on board was the biggest addition to The Wolfman, adding a major star to the ranks. There had been an early deepfake video putting Gosling in the role though we haven’t seen any official images for the actor yet.
It was Gosling who pitched his take on the Wolfman, and it fell right into line with what Universal was wanting for 2.0. They are looking for amazing filmmakers to create their own unique versions of the classic movie monsters.
THE WOLFMAN’S RELEASE DATE
There is currently no release date or firm production path for The Wolfman. While that can sometimes be a bad sign for a movie, there are some reasons behind it. For starters, Ryan Gosling has a busier schedule these days after a long Hollywood hiatus.
RYAN GOSLING HAD TAKEN AN EXTENDED BREAK FROM ACTING
For a while there, we were not sure if we were ever going to get Ryan Gosling back in front of the camera. He was, at one time, one of the busier actors in Tinsel Town, but that changed dramatically in 2018 when he stepped away.
His last film was the 2018 sleeper, First Man, where he played astronaut Neil Armstrong. But since that time, the prolific actor has spent time being a father to his two children that he has with his partner Eva Mendes, who herself stopped acting in 2014 when she had her first child with Gosling.
Gosling is back now and coming back with a vengeance. First up is The Gray Man where he is starring opposite Chris Evans and Ana de Armas, then comes Barbie, where he plays Ken to Margot Robbie’s Barbie. While those two films are undoubtedly highly anticipated, Wolfman could be even more anticipated than both previously mentioned films combined.
There hasn’t been much of an update regarding the progress of Wolfman, although Universal still has it high on their list of Universal Monsters they will be bringing back to the big screen over the new few years. Director Derek Cianfrance is still set to helm the movie, from a script that he wrote from the earlier script by Rebecca Angelo and Lauren Schuker Blum. As we noted, Cianfrance has taken over the reins of the film from Leigh Wannell, who had to move along from the project due to scheduling issues.
Although Cianfrance is not noted for taking on huge projects such as Wolfman, he did say horror movies were what actually got him interested in films. “Horror movies were my first love — my entry into what cinema was capable of narratively, psychologically and aesthetically. Coupled with the opportunity to collaborate with Ryan again, this is truly a dream come true. I’m thrilled and inspired to work with the good folks at Blumhouse and Universal to bring this monster back to life in our collective unconscious,” said Cianfrance via Deadline.
While there isn’t much coming from the Wolfman camp, the film apparently will be an updated version of the story, bringing Gosling’s Wolfman into a present-day setting. So far, no other actors have been attached to the film. At this rate, don’t expect the film to hit theaters until late 2023, perhaps in time for Halloween.
OTHER UNIVERSAL MOVIE MONSTER MOVIES INCLUDE NICOLAS CAGE IN RENFIELD
What else does Universal have planned besides The Wolfman? A lot. And if you are a classic Universal monster fan, you’re going to want to see Dark Universe 2.0 succeed.
Along with the recent release of The Invisible Man and the upcoming Wolfman, Universal has already announced Dark Army (think of The Avengers with monsters) led by Paul Feig. Renfield, a story about Dracula’s helper starring Nicholas Hoult as the titular lead and Nicolas Cage as the legendary vampire he works for. Frankenstein, a movie that will be coming to fans from director James Wan (Aquaman). Elizabeth Banks will be bringing her vision of The Invisible Woman to the movie screen as both the director and star.
As you can see, the size and scope of 2.0 remain large. The names being brought in to lead the way are just as big. Now, let’s see if they can pull it off.
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