I’m quite the fan of Harry Houdini, or at least his reputation – I never saw the man at work, and the writing I’ve read that was credited to him was all co-written, possibly rather heavily ghost written.
His movie career left a lot to be desired, but his escapology and other magic tricks seem to have been something special and, in particular, he did some sterling work as a bunkum buster. The book A Magician Among the Spirits is Houdini’s chronicle of his tripping up and exposing the scamsters and fake mediums who would pray on the bereaved, and it’s this kind of pro-active scepticism that form the bedrock of my admiration for him.
The last feature film about Houdini that I saw, Death Defying Acts, starred Guy Pearce. It was somewhat undervalued, but also a little underpowered and, while I’ll recommend it, in part, to the curious, we could use another, better picture.
And perhaps Gary Ross will be the man to deliver.
The Hollywood Reporter say that Ross is negotiating to take the director’s chair for a new biopic based on William Kalush and Larry Sloman‘s book The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero.
This is the book that most boldly asserts that Houdini collaborated with the British secret service and international police forces. I’m not sure how good their evidence is, but it makes for a compelling yarn none the less, and could make for an exciting, surprising movie. Houdini is a legend, now, and its not a s surprise that tall tales will be told about him.
I’d like to see Ross take this one on. I’ll be watching closely.
Interesting footnote: Francis Lawrence, the man to take over the Hunger Games series from Ross, has his own Houdini film in the works.