Universal Pictures is finally moving forward with its long-awaited comic book adaptation Cowboy Ninja Viking, landing director Michelle MacLaren. While this will not be the filmmaker’s feature film debut, it will be only her second film after the 2006 indie thriller Population 436, which starred Jeremy Sisto and Fred Durst. After spending the past decade on the small screen, with two Emmy wins to her credit, the filmmaker finally returns to the big screen with Cowboy Ninja Viking.
We first reported on this project back in November 2014, when Chris Pratt scored the lead role, just months after his blockbuster turn as Star-Lord in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The actor confirmed his starring role in this comic book adaptation a few days later, but there has been little to no movement on the project since then. This new report reveals that Michelle MacLaren beat out two other candidates for this coveted gig, Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 3) and Rick Famuyiwa (Dope).
Cowboy Ninja Viking is based on the Image Comics title created by writer A.J. Lieberman and illustrator Riley Rossmo, which ran in a 10-episode limited run between October 2009 and November 2010. The comics center on an assassin named Duncan (Chris Pratt), who is one of numerous hitmen who came out of a secret counter-intelligence unit known as Triplets. Each assassin has three different personalities within them, which they can access. Duncan is the most powerful of the group, whose personalities are that of a cowboy, ninja and a Viking. The plot follows Duncan, after the Triplets program falls apart, who is tasked with hunting down other rogue Triplets who have become contract killers.
Craig Mazin (The Hangover Part III) wrote the most recent draft of the screenplay, but there have been several other writers attached throughout the years. The project was first put into development in 2010, when Disney picked up the rights to the comic book, and set Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to write the script. Disney dropped the film in 2012, with Universal picking it up out of turnaround, with Marc Forster (World War Z) attached to direct for a short period of time. John Wick directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch were both eyed to replace Marc Forster in 2015, but they never officially signed on.
Michelle MacLaren started her Hollywood career as a production manager in the 1990s, before making her TV directorial debut with an episode of The X-Files in 2002, after serving as a co-executive producer on the show for two years. She would go on to direct episodes of Without a Trace, John Doe, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Kyle XY until she started working on Breaking Bad in 2009. She directed 11 episodes of Breaking Bad, and she would become an executive producer on the show in 2011 for its last two seasons. She has also directed episodes of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The Leftovers, Modern Family, The Deuce and Better Call Saul, and she was once attached to direct Wonder Woman before she bowed out, and Patty Jenkins took over. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news on Cowboy Ninja Viking earlier today.