by: Donna Whitehead
Gus Van Sant will direct DEATH NOTE, Warner Bros.’ adaptation of the manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. The film follows the story of a high school student who finds a mysterious notebook that lets him instantly kill any person by writing their name in the book. As the student’s body count piles up, a nameless FBI agent begins tracking him. Van Sant replaces Shane Black, who was attached to direct as recently as 2013. The most recent draft of the script was written by Black, Anthony Bagarozzi, and Charles Mondry.
Dan Lin, Doug Davison, Roy Lee, and Brian Witten are producing through Vertigo Entertainment, Witten Pictures, and Lin Pictures. Vertigo and Lin Pictures were both involved with this year’s enormously popular “Lego Movie.” Lin also produced Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” and its sequel, and Lee is a producer on Vertigo and Prime Universe’s in-development adaptation of the “Thief” video game franchise.
Van Sant’s most famous directorial work, “Good Will Hunting” and “Milk,” might raise some eyebrows when paired with “Death Note.” But he actually has some experience in suspense and thrillers, and teen-driven ones at that. His 1998 “Psycho” remake failed to deliver, but Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park,” a 2007 thriller based on the Blake Nelson novel of the same name, received positive critical attention, particularly for the tense atmosphere created by the directing and cinematography. “Park” follows a high school student who accidentally kills a security guard, and afterwards finds himself haunted, hunted, and paranoid–not an exact match for “Death Note,” but definitely good practice.
This is not the first adaptation of “Death Note”; the series has been turned into an anime, a video game series, and two live-action Japanese films, with varying degrees of critical and commercial success. It is the first American adaptation, though–so let’s hope that with its new director, “Death Note” makes the trip across the Pacific okay.
Van Sant is repped by WME.