Remo Williams’ adventure begins again–the Destroyer returning to film

Created, the Destroyer by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

As regular readers know, one of my favorite series of paperback originals is the Destroyer, created by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. They made a movie version once, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, but it wasn’t a big enough hit to get a sequel, even though everyone who lived through the ’80s seems to have seen it. An attempt was made to go small-screen and turn it into a TV series. One godawful pilot aired (with different actors in the lead roles) and that was that for Remo and Chiun’s film careers, something that no doubt upset Chiun mightily.

After years of rumors and a trickle of solid-sounding news, something that means almost nothing in Hollywood, a new Destroyer movie has been officially announced. This time, it’s as solid as can be, because the director is Shane Black. Shane Black wrote and directed Iron Man 3, which grossed over $400 million in the States and $1.2 billion worldwide. A success like that means Shane Black can do anything he wants for his next movie, and Mr. Black wants to do the Destroyer.

The tales of Remo Williams and his master in the assassin’s art of Sinanju, the incorrigible Chiun, ran to nearly 150 novels before finally fading away in the early 2000s. The series was revived as The New Destroyer for Tor books a few years later, but that series didn’t take off with buyers (perhaps due to really ugly cover art). That was a real pity, because one of those volumes, Dead Reckoning, was one of the best yet in a series with lots of great entries.

Warren Murphy owns the rights to his characters, so he has published a couple of novellas, one novel, and two in a series of Young Adult-ish spinoffs through his own imprint, but my gut tells me they probably haven’t sold much beyond the series’ hardcore following. I feared that my beloved Remo and Chiun would fade away forever, relegated in most people’s minds to a bit of trivia about an ’80s movie.

Enter Shane Black and some interesting history. Black’s first produced screenplay was for a little movie called Lethal Weapon. You may have seen it. If you have, you’ll recall that it’s about a pair of cops, one black and one white.

Those cops bore a striking resemblance to a couple of cops in a five-book series by Warren Murphy named Razoni and Jackson. According to legend, Murphy’s lawyers made some noises and the deal struck was that Murphy would work on the screenplay for Lethal Weapon 2 as compensation.

And now Shane Black wants to do the Destroyer, so he really is a fan of Mr. Murphy’s work.

Black is not writing this one, though. And this is where the news gets really good. Not because he couldn’t write a good screenplay, but because of what it tells us about this movie.

One of the screenwriters is Jim Uhls, best known for writing Fight Club. The other is a fellow named James Mullaney.

There are probably only three people who know the characters of Remo and Chiun almost as well as Murphy and the late Dick Sapir. Those are Murphy’s ex-wife, Molly Cochran, who ghosted several entries, Will Murray, who ghosted many, and James Mullaney, who ghosted the last great run of the original series and earned cover credit for The New Destroyer, the only person other than Murphy and Sapir to get cover credit when the series was mass market.

Jim Mullaney is beloved by fans of the series. His selection means that they are making a real Destroyer movie. And from what we know about Shane Black, he wants to make a real Destroyer movie. They are going to make every effort to make Remo and Chiun the real Remo and Chiun.

Mullaney confirms this via Facebook: “[E]verybody on EVERY level is on the same page as to what a Destroyer film should be.” 

I liked Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, despite it’s devastating weakness of an utterly lame villain. But back in the ’80s it would have been difficult to capture Remo and Chiun’s wilder adventures and physical feats. As far as wilder adventures go, it is thought by many that the shape-shifting T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day was inspired by series supervillain Mr. Gordons. As far as physical feats go, more than one person believes The Matrix has some Destroyer influence in at as well. Things like those weren’t going to happen back when Fred Ward and Joel Grey gave it a go. They can happen now.

And maybe the series of novels can be fully revived? A man can dream.

I’m thrilled about the flick happening in the right hands, and I’m extra-thrilled for Jim Mullaney. Since the Destroyer gig ended, he’s been writing two series, the Red Menace and Crag Banyon. The books are a lot of fun, but I doubt they are making him rich. We are Facebook friends, and he’s a nice, funny guy who shares my love of Warren Zevon. He has spent his time in the trenches doing great work for the characters I love, and he has earned this opportunity by dint of well over a decade’s worth of hard labor and quality output. Congratulations, Jim!

Related stuff

I reviewed the debut entries in Mullaney’s Red Menace and Crag Banyon series here. I may have a couple more Banyon reviews for you in the near future.

I look at a recent Destroyer novella, Savage Song, here.

If you read the Hollywood Report article I linked, you already know that Shane Black is also likely to bring another one of my series heroes back to life–Doc Savage. Former Destroyer ghost Will Murray currently pens the adventures of Doc Savage.

The Destroyer is the second biggest men’s adventure series. The first is, of course, Mack Bolan, the Executioner. He is also coming to film, with Bradley Cooper set to star.

When I was tweeting this news out last night, I said the screenplay was by George Uhl. Too much time spent in the Parker-verse. Wallace Stroby called me out on it.