Although a number of comic book-based movies are in various degrees of development right now, the most promising one just might be "Dead of Night."
Based on Tiziano Sclavi’s "Dylan Dog" comic books (published in Italy), the movie began filming in February.
Directed by Kevin Munroe, "Dead of Night" is the story of a detective drawn into the world of the supernatural.
One of the primary forces in bringing the novels to life has been Dan Forcey, who is the VP of Development at Platinum Studios Inc.
"Platinum is the multi-media company that originally optioned the rights from Bonelli to make a Dylan Dog movie," said Forcey, who is wearing multiple hats in the making of "Dead of Night."
"I’m also here on set serving as a member of the stunt team," he said. "I did stunts before moving into development at Platinum and this film has allowed me to exercise those muscles again, which has been a ton of fun."
Bringing Dylan Dog to the big screen has been a longtime goal for Forcey.
"I, and other folks at Platinum, have been working on a script based on the comic for years now," he said. "We nearly made it with a couple of other partners, but after a few false starts, we finally found what we think is the perfect combination of talent to truly bring Dylan to life."
Top-lining that talent is Brandon Routh, best known for his portrayal of Superman in the 2006 movie "Superman Returns."
In "Superman Returns," Routh was somewhat under-utilized, despite playing the title character. In "Dead of Night," Forcey said, Routh will have a chance to really show what he can do.
"Those folks that are only familiar with Brandon from his work on 'Superman Returns' are going to be surprised by him in this role, I think," said Forcey. "Although he was great in that movie, I think Dylan will allow him to shine even more."
According to Forcey, Routh perfectly fit what the filmmakers were looking for when casting Dylan Dog.
"Brandon has a dark complexity, coupled with a genuine likability, that is essential to bring Dylan to life," he said. "We talked a lot about who could handle Dylan with Kevin and the consensus was that a lot of actors could act the part of Dylan, but Brandon was the only one who was it."
Forcey said Routh has immersed himself into the world of Dylan Dog in preparation for the role.
"He’s really dived into the comics, and at this point probably knows more Italian than I do as a result," said Forcey.
In fact, Forcey noted, Routh "even did an entire scene in Italian in the movie."
Forcey added that Routh has lived up to his reputation as being a nice guy behind the scenes.
"At this point in the production, as a stuntman, I haven’t had a lot of interaction with him," he said. "But I can tell you, he’s liked by everyone on set. He’s nice, down-to-earth and a very hard worker."
Other actors cast in the movie include Anita Briem, Taye Diggs, Peter Stormare, Kurt Angle, Kyle Russell Clements, James Hébert, Marco St. John, Dan Braverman, Kimberly Whalen and Courtney J. Clark.
Additionally, Sam Huntington is playing Dylan Dog's sidekick, Marcus. The character marks a departure from the comics. In the original Italian comics, Dylan Dog's sidekick is Groucho, an actor for whom a Groucho Marx impersonation became his permanent personality. In the American reprints of the comics by Dark Horse, the character has been renamed Felix and even the Groucho mustache has been removed.
According to Forcey, using a Groucho Marx likeness would have cost several million dollars and a piece of the marketing pie ("including any comics Bonelli publishes in the future”).
For Huntington, playing Marcus in "Dead of Night" will mark his second pairing with Routh. Huntington played Jimmy Olsen in "Superman Returns," and he and Routh have remained friends since filming the movie.
According to Forcey, that friendship ultimately may have helped Huntington to get the part, but the fact that the two actors already had worked together on a superhero movie almost worked against Huntington.
"Brandon was definitely part of that decision (to hire Huntington)," said Forcey. "Brandon and Sam were at first under consideration independent of each other, just because we thought they were both great actors. We were actually worried about casting them because we didn't want to invite comparisons to 'Superman Returns.' Then Kevin found out from Brandon that they had remained friends after 'Superman Returns' and agreed to allow them to read together. Almost instantly, he realized they naturally had the exact kind of dynamic that Dylan and Marcus have in the script and decided he needed them both."
The comedic dynamic between Dylan Dog and Marcus is just one aspect of a movie that is not exactly tied down to a single genre.
"It's a thriller with a little action, a little buddy comedy and a splash of noir," said Forcey.
And if the movie itself is hard to pin down, that just might be due to the nature of the lead character.
"Dylan is a very complex character," stated Forcey. "He has a brand of 'optimistic melancholy' that makes him a fascinating figure in cinema, I think. We’re interested in him because he is complex and real. Despite the craziness he encounters in every issue, at the core of every story is this flawed character named Dylan. But unlike a John Constantine, who revels in his flaws or outright ignores them, Dylan is quite aware and tries to rise above them with an optimism and sense of humor that is infectious."
And while every effort has been made to keep the character as true to the original stories as possible, moving the action to a new locale has some fans of the series up in arms.
While the "Dylan Dog" stories typically take place in London, "Dead of Night" is set in New Orleans. Forcey said the new location is primarily story-driven.
"The city definitely plays a part in the story. I can't go into too many details, but it does play a big part in it," he said. "More importantly, though, the city is as much a character in the film as London is in the Dylan novels. New Orleans has an age and a mysticism to it that I don't think you'd find anywhere else in the states and if a 'nightmare detective' was going to find business anywhere this side of the ocean, it would be there."
Principal photography for the movie currently is taking place on location in New Orleans, with the release date slated for "sometime in 2010," Forcey said.
As for the movie's budget, Forcey wouldn't reveal a number, but he did say that it was "about on par with the 'Underworld' movies." ("Underworld" cost $22 million and the most recent sequel was priced at $35 million. Unofficial estimates have put the budget for "Dead of Night" somewhere between those two numbers.)
Forcey also is keeping details of the plot a secret. An early script was leaked, but Forcey said it was a "very, very old draft of the script."
Since then, Forcey said, "The director and Platinum’s foreign library specialist, Gioj Demarco, went through the script just prior to shooting and did an entirely new draft that was specifically intended to make things closer to the books."
For those wondering how the movie will relate to the stories told in the books, Forcey said, "People should think of it as a continuation of Dylan's ongoing adventures."
Forcey added that "there will be a 'how we got from the stories in the book to where "Dead of Night" picks up' story that will be available to fans in a ... very interesting way soon."
However, he noted, moviegoers will not be required to read the comics in order to fully comprehend the movie.
"Like 'Iron Man' last year," Forcey said, "we've definitely added in a lot of things just for the fans, but the movie will stand on its own."
To stay up-to-date on the filming of the movie from behind the scenes, check out Dan Forcey's blog at http://deadofnightmovie.wordpress.com. In addition to updates about the shoot, Forcey does a great job of explaining differences from the books to the screen (such as why Dylan Dog's white Bug with a black top has become a black Bug with a white top).