Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Marvel Studios is moving forward on a live action feature version of Iron Fist, hiring screenwriter Rich Wilkes to draft a movie based on a martial arts expert whose battle with a dragon–ended when he plunged his hands through the beast’s molten heart–turned his fists into indestructible weapons.

Iron Fist was on the minds of many fanboys when Disney paid $4 billion for Marvel’s 5000 superhero library and vowed to turn the less obvious comic book heroes into films and TV properties. Marvel tried to make an Iron Fist movie with Artisan nearly a decade ago, as a vehicle for X-Men villain and martial arts expert Ray Park. The Iron Fist comic book mythology was created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in the 1970s, when the popularity of martial arts films was on the rise.

Iron Fist was among a bunch of Marvel superhero properties scattered around Hollywood. While tent poles like X-Men, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four and a handful of others remain at other studios, Marvel has recaptured rights to many wayward properties and Kevin Feige is hitting the reset button on a bunch of them. Marvel recently began work on Dr. Strange, hiring Conan scribes Thomas Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer to generate a film from a superhero property that four studios tried to crack over the years. Both Iron Fist and Dr. Strange will be distributed by Disney. Marvel Studios has four more films under the preexisting distribution deal with Paramount, and those will include Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America, and the Robert Downey Jr.-starrer Iron Man 3. The final film will likely be the Joss Whedon-directed The Avengers, though Marvel is separately working on the youth-oriented Runaways and Ant-Man.

Wilkes is best known for writing the original XXX film that launched a franchise around Vin Diesel’s extreme sports hero character. He also scripted the Motley Crue biopic The Dirt, which Paramount just put into turnaround, and he wrote Ballad of the Whiskey Robber for Johnny Depp and Graham King. Wilkes is repped by Verve.

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