And now for his next trick, Sacha Baron Cohen will star in MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN for Warner Bros. Get Hard writer-director Etan Cohen is set to direct the film, which is based on the popular character from the syndicated newspaper comic strip created by Lee Falk in 1934. The most recent drafts of the script come from David Peoples and Janet Peoples and Puss In Boots scribe Tom Wheeler.
The story centers around the adventures of Mandrake, the illusionist and escape artist with the power to hypnotize his foes. With his companion Lothar, he travels the globe solving mysteries and fighting evildoers – including his twin brother who uses his powers for evil instead than good. Sources say that the plan is to update the character for the 21st century, with Mandrake being recruited by the United States government for a secret mission.
Baron Cohen will also produce through his Four by Two Films, alongside Charles Roven and Andy Horowtiz, who are producing through Atlas Entertainment. Rocky Shepard will executive produce, with Curt Kanemoto serving as the production executive. Cate Adams and Jesse Ehrman will oversee for the studio.
The film marks the first adaptation of the character since the 1954 TV movie starring Coe Norton, and the first feature adaptation since Columbia Pictures’ Mandrake, The Magician in 1939, starring Warren Hull.
The character, who has been described as “America’s first superhero,” is known as a magician whose work is based on an unusually fast hypnotic technique, through which his subjects see illusions when he “gestures hypnotically.” He uses the technique to defeat villains, including gangsters, mad scientists, extraterrestrials, and characters from other dimensions. He has the ability to turn invisible, shapeshift, levitate, and teleport thanks to the powers imbued to him by the hat, cloak, and wand he inherited from his father.
The project has been in development for years, undergoing multiple variations at the hands of several writers and producers. Previously, Disney and the Jacobson Company were developing the project, where a number of writers, including Peter Magill, David Levien, and Brian Koppelman all turned in drafts. Hyde Park and Baldwin Entertainment were developing the story with writers Tom Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, with Josh Richmond writing the original adaptation based on Falk’s comic strip. Directors Chuck Russell and Mimi Leder were previously attached, while Jonathan Rhys Meyers was once attached to star. Now, with Baron Cohen attached to the lead and Etan Cohen on board to direct, it looks like the project has momentum once again.
Director Etan Cohen, whose past writing credits include Idiocracy, Tropic Thunder, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, and Men in Black 3, recently landed the directing gig for the Warner Bros. remake of Cannonball Run. In addition to his upcoming directing duties, Cohen is in development with Sony’s Candy Land adaptation and Paramount’s adaptation of the classic television show Battle of the Network Stars.
Baron Cohen is the creator of comic characters Ali G, Borat and Brüno, whose most recent effort was the action comedy The Brothers Grimsby. He also appears as Time in Disney’s Alice Through The Looking Glass. Through his Four by Two banner, Baron Cohen has multiple projects in the works, including the Amazon series Highston and Danny McBride’s remake of the Danish film Clown.
Josh Lyons | Managing Editor