What We Know: American Assassin


By: Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)

Based on the recurring popular character created by author Vince Flynn, CIA operative Mitch Rapp will make his way to theaters this fall with CBS Films’ American Assassin.

Flynn passed away in 2013, but not before writing many popular novels, 15 of which star the character of Rapp. CBS Films acquired the rights to Flynn’s series in 2008 and were originally set to adapt the book Consent to Kill for the first film. The film studio’s projects had not been performing as expected, and the project was then delayed. In the meantime, Flynn published a prequel to the series, telling the story of how Rapp came to be a master operative, which then became the source material for the upcoming film!

The journey to get American Assassin on the screen was still not an easy one. Not only were there delays, but the director’s seat has also been the focus of a sort of musical chairs. The film was originally set to be directed by Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw) and several other actors were in line for the lead role (such as Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, who was unable to take the offered role due to scheduling conflicts). Eventually Edward Zwick was in the director’s chair, until he was replaced by Jeffrey Nachmanoff in early 2012. In March 2016, Michael Cuesta finally took the director’s chair and helmed the project that will be coming to screens this year. Meanwhile, the script for American Assassin went through several writers, from Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, to revisions by Michael Finch, and a final writer, Stephen Schiff, was added in 2016 (when Cuesta was given the director’s seat).

The rest of early 2016 consisted of casting, and principal photography finally began in September 2016 in locations such as London, Rome, and Phuket, with additional filming in Valletta and Birmingham. In March 2017, a release date was finally announced, and it is expected that the film will premiere in September of this year. (Mark your calendars!) Meanwhile, attendees of CinemaCon in Las Vegas in April were the first to see a poster for the film as well as a teaser. A full trailer for American Assassin was recently released, even bringing lead actor Dylan O’Brien out of his Twitter slumber (he hadn’t tweeted since October 2016!) to promote the film and the trailer.

If you’re not a reader of Flynn novels and the spy thriller is new to you, here’s a quick rundown for the Lionsgate Film-distributed movie:

An origin story, American Assassin tells the tale of Rapp (Dylan O’Brien), an Arabic linguistics expert, who loses his girlfriend in a terrorist attack. Rapp finds himself on a mission for revenge, eventually recruited by CIA black ops to put his talents to good use, undergoing intense training with Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Hurley and Rapp team up to investigate a seemingly unrelated wave of attacks on military and civilian targets. As they look for a pattern and prepare to stop the threat, they combine forces with a Turkish agent anmed Annika (Shiva Negar). As they work under the direction of Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan), they find themselves facing off against Ghost (Taylor Kitsch), who is intent on starting a world war in the Middle East.

With Keaton, a former Bruce Wayne/Batman, training young Teen Wolf star O’Brien, American Assassin has the potential to bring in audiences across the age spectrum. However, viewers beware: the spy thriller, produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura (Transformers: The Last Knight) and Nick Wechsler, is currently unrated, but with mature material, a G or PG rating is off the table. The film is clearly the beginning of the story of Rapp. The studio is hopeful the film will be successful and will lead to a franchise based on the series of books revolving around the character, even purposefully casting college-aged O’Brien as an actor who can grow in the role as the character also grows in potential future films. (He resembles a younger and leaner Mark Wahlberg, so this isn’t a stretch of the imagination!)

American Assassin is currently set to release September 15, 2017. While you wait, check out the books by Vince Flynn and follow the film’s progress on Twitter!

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