Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paul Greengrass will push back for at least a year his Martin Luther King Jr assassination film Memphis. I’m told he’s now looking at several projects to do next, and the front-runner is The Deep Blue Good-by, one of the John D. MacDonald series of novels with character Travis McGee. It’s being put together at 20th Century Fox with Appian Way partners Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson-Killoran, who are producing with Amy Robinson and Peter Chernin. Dana Stevens and Kario Salem wrote the script. The project has been developed as a potential star vehicle for DiCaprio and perhaps the start of a franchise.

The picture was seriously considered by Oliver Stone before he committed to direct an adaptation of the Don Winslow novel Savages. Timing could be a big factor for DiCaprio, who is shooting the Clint Eastwood-directed J. Edgar and then will follow playing the title character of the Baz Luhrmann-directed The Great Gatsby. DiCaprio has long wanted to play Travis McGee, the beach bum who lives on the houseboat The Busted Flush. When he needs money,  McGee takes “salvage consultant” jobs, recovering property for clients, taking a big percentage, and getting into misadventures along the way. The Deep Blue Good-by was published in 1964, first of a 21-volume series.

I expect Greengrass to take another film, and then follow with Memphis, so that film can be ready for late 2012 release right smack in the middle of Oscar season. The original plan between Greengrass and producer Scott Rudin was to get Memphis into production so that the film could be platformed before year end and then open wide around the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. As the window on getting Memphis into production began to close after Universal Pictures declined to move ahead and things couldn’t be pulled together quickly enough with one of several financiers that circled, Greengrass has begun looking at several projects. They include Here There Be Monsters, a Legendary Pictures project scripted by Brian Helgeland. That film is being produced by Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni and Mandeville’s David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman, based on an original idea by Tull. It focuses on British naval officer John Paul Jones, who’s wrongly stripped of his commission and is hired by a rich shipping magnate to investigate the disappearance of his merchant ships in the North Atlantic. Jones and his shipmates slowly realize that it’s the work of a sea serpent, and they use unconventional yet visionary naval strategies to battle the creature and stay alive. Legendary, which will make the picture under its overall agreement with Warner Bros, is talking to several directors on the project, not just Greengrass.

Get Deadline news and alerts sent to your inbox.