Parker, Reacher, Hammer: Macho series characters suddenly hot

Hollywood gets on kicks all the time. In 1997, we had the Year of the Volcano (Volcano, Dante’s Peak), followed in 1998 by the Year of the Meteor (Armageddon, Deep Impact), which was also the Year of the Animated Insect (A Bug’s LifeAntz) on the Chinese movie calendar.

It looks like 2013 will be the Year of the Macho Series Character. Jack Reacher, the first adaptation of one of Lee Child’s bestselling novels about the title character, hits theaters at the tail end of 2012 (December 21st), and will likely still be in theaters when Parker, based on the series of 24 novels by Richard Stark (AKA Donald Westlake), drops on January 25th.

Neither film comes without grumbling from hardcore fans of the series they are based on. The literary Jack Reacher is 6’5″ and begins the series considerably younger than the 5’7″ actor who is portraying him, the 49 year old Tom Cruise. Master thief Parker looks quite a bit different than Jason Statham, who is cast in the role, but the objections from fans largely come from the fact that they consider Parker quintessentially American (Statham is British and will not be hiding his accent), and the softening of this toughest of tough guys for a general audience.

The tough-guy trend will continue if these films are hits. Already in production and also controversially cast is Travis McGee, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the title “salvage consultant,” from a series of 21 color-coded novels by John D. MacDonald that began with 1964’s The Deep Blue Good-by.

Warner Brothers has just acquired the rights to Mickey Spillane’s huge-selling Mike Hammer series about the hard-boiled private eye. Hammer has been a hit before, on radio, film, and most famously by Stacy Keach on television, but you can bet that Warner will be watching the box office from Jack Reacher and Parker closely regardless.

Rumored in development for years is an adaptation of Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm series, done previously as a ’60s spy spoof with Dean Martin and as a short-lived television series starring Anthony Franciosa. If Jack Reacher, Parker, and Travis McGee hit, expect a quick move out of development hell. (The Matt Helm novels are being reprinted by Titan Books starting February 22nd).

Another possible project is a new adaptation of the long-running Destroyer series created by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. The recently revived series of novels has run for over forty years and over 150 volumes. It was previously adapted to film as Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, followed by a TV pilot that was not picked up for a series. While the saga of the white martial arts assassin Remo and his Korean master Chiun is somewhat different from the more grounded series discussed above, it should appeal to the same audience. Expect interest in this property to increase if the box office on Parker and Jack Reacher is solid.

It’s quite possible that the Year of the Macho Series Character could turn into the Decade of the Macho Series Character.

[Sorry if the style of this post was jarring to you regulars. I thought it would be fun to try to write like an entertainment-beat journalist. I don’t think I quite nailed it, but I think I came close!]