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New Houdini Film Project From Lionsgate

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Houdini and BessIn a Deadline exclusive story, Daniel Trachtenberg is in talks to direct the Lionsgate’s film about S.A.M. Past National President, Harry Houdini. The project is based on the William Kalush and Larry Sloman’s book “The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero”. The film has all the elements for a blockbuster. Directed by Trachtenberg who also directed 10 Cloverfield Lane, the script is by Noah Oppenheim winner of the scripting prize at the Venice Film Festival earlier this fall. It is being produced by Frank Marshall and American Beauty’s Bruce Cohen. Lionsgate is also responsible for the Now You See Me franchise.

This is the same project that vanished into this air when every new project in Hollywood seemed to be about Harry Houdini. Originally it was slated to star Johnny Depp but the aging star doesn’t appear to be connected with the film any longer.

The original book chronicles the years Houdini struggled on the circuit through his Royal Command Performances and early Hollywood Feature films. At that time, spy agencies frequently co-opted amateurs and while not proven, it is rumored that Houdini developed a relationship with the man who would later run MI-5. The book claims that while the world’s most famous magician traveled to Germany and Russia, he would routinely reported his findings.

Fight Scene from The Grim Game starring Harry HoudiniAfter World War I, Houdini created a group of operatives to infiltrate the seamy world of fake spirit mediums which triggered the wrath of fanatical Spiritualists and possibly got him murdered.

The film will focus on Houdini’s exploits as an investigator and public debunker of bogus spiritualists. It is unlikely to address the fate of the decidedly non-threatening robot that was a major (and deceptive) selling point of The Master Mystery, the first in a cycle of turgid silent serials in which Houdini, for reason, always seemed to play a Treasury agent fighting counterfeiters in a basement.

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