Mike Fleming

Director Alexandre Aja has emerged from the Piranha 3D fish tank determined to next sink his teeth into Cobra—The Space Pirate. While not well known in America, the Buichi Terasawa-created Japanese manga was turned into an animated series that was hugely popular across Europe and especially in Aja’s childhood household.

After a long courtship, Aja said he’s been granted the rights by Terasawa. He wants to turn the futuristic saga into a tent pole-sized live action franchise. He is writing the script with Gregory Levasseur and will produce with Levasseur, Marc Sessego and Alexandra Milchan. Since directing the 2003 French fright film High Tension, Aja has stayed in horror mode with The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors and Piranha 3D. He wants to step up to a big science fiction fantasy tale.

In a future where merchant spaceships and ruthless brigands sail across space, Cobra is a notorious rogue pirate whose refusal to align with the United Galaxies Federation or the Pirates Guild puts him on the business end of a huge bounty. As he tries to keep his identity secret and avoid capture, Cobra teams up with a sexy bounty hunter named Jane, who is out to locate her sisters and decode a treasure map tattooed on their backs. Their goal: to liberate a lost treasure on Mars. To Aja, Cobra was every bit a seminal rogue as Han Solo or Indiana Jones.

“I grew up dreaming about Cobra,” Aja told me. “My day was, finish school, run home and switch on the TV and I was hardly the only one. Kids did it in France, Italy, Spain, all over Western Europe. For many people there is Star Wars and nothing else, but for me and my writing partner Gregory, there is Star Wars and Cobra. I am so surprised it never crossed the ocean and made the same impact in the U.S., because it is so big everywhere else. There are 60 books, a lot of TV animation and so many adventures, pirates and bad guys that it is perfect to be reinvented into a really cool space opera adventure franchise for a new generation.”

Now that the rights are secure, Aja said he and his partners have begun talking to everyone from financiers to creature designers. After unleashing toothy fish through 3D, Aja is considering the same possibilities for the space adventure. “It should be in 3D, science fiction and 3D are a good mix,” Aja said. “I’ll start work on the script soon, but I have been carrying this inside me for 30 years and we are talking to the creature designers of films like Avatar and Star Trek, building a new world and doing it the right way.”