After the collapse of his North Korea thriller Pyongyang at 20th Century Fox in December, Academy Award-winning director Gore Verbinski (Rango, Pirates of the Caribbean) announced that he and that film’s screenwriter Steve Conrad (The Weather Man) were moving on to other projects, including an action-comedy titled Passengers. Now Deadline is reporting that the film is now untitled but is being called the Driverless Car Race movie and has moved from New Regency (which is tied with Fox) to Sony.
Though the title Passengers has been taken by the newly-revived Jon Spaihts-penned sci-fi film, it’s an apt name for the concept as it involves a transcontinental car race with autonomous vehicles. What starts as a beta test for competing software companies turns into driver-less vehicle race from Paris to Beijing in which the normal human subjects find themselves increasingly unwilling to simply sit passively. The race goes off the grid and into a lot of trouble.
“Essentially, we are going to take the funniest comedic actors of this generation and slowly unleash them as we examine the very notion of ‘passengers’ who fundamentally cannot remain passive,” Verbinski said.
“We want to invert the whole premise of a road trip where the promise has always been, ‘anything can happen’ and say, ‘what if anything can’t happen?’” says Conrad. “What does that do to the test subject? What are the breaking points?”
The story plays like a more socially-conscious It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and the idea of a star-studded road race movie is an oft-revived sub-genre, including the Cannonball Run films, Speed Zone, Million Dollar Mystery and most recently Rat Race.
“At a time when we give more and more liberty away for the benefits of technology, there is nothing more primal and direct as this specific physical abdication of control: Removing a steering wheel from the grasp of human being,” Verbinski continues. “The driver-less car is coming. It’s right around the bend, and it represents an immediate and relevant opportunity to explore the classic ‘Man against Machine’ genre spliced into a large scale Automotive Rally. Stating the obvious – Things are going to get out of control.”
There is no word on which of the “funniest comedic actors of this generation” Verbinski is referring to, although we would bet his former Pyongyang star Steve Carell will be part of the gang. Verbinski also has the elevated horror film A Cure for Wellness in development with a screenplay by Revolutionary Road scribe Justin Haythe.
(Photo Credit: WENN)