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Doing a "Modesty Blaise"

One of my news feeds threw me a link to something I wouldn't normally have read on my own. It's an article on Entertainment Weekly's website, ew.com, about the time that the Fletch remake, or relaunch, or sequel, or prequel has spent in "development hell." The article's called "The Curse of 'Fletch,'" by Clark Collis, but what really pulled me in was the alternate headline that the NYT's "Idea of the Day" blog gave it, "It's News When Some Movies Don't Get Remade."

It's an entertaining enough article on its own terms, but I'm especially glad I read it, for one paragraph that has almost nothing to do with the subject of the article:

''The updates I would get were that they were going to do what they call a 'Modesty Blaise,''' [Kevin Smith] says. The term refers to the straight-to-video 2004 Miramax movie My Name Is Modesty. The Weinsteins had bought the rights to the character of Modesty Blaise, a female adventurer who originally appeared in a British newspaper comic strip, for Miramax golden boy Quentin Tarantino, a huge fan of the fictional heroine. (In Pulp Fiction, John Travolta is holding a Modesty Blaise book when he is killed by Bruce Willis.) Tarantino never got around to doing anything with the project, so Miramax produced My Name Is Modesty to ensure the property stayed with the company.
I got chills.

I'm not the world's biggest Modesty Blaise fan: I only have about 5 or 6 of the books. But like every Modesty Blaise fan, I've spent years wishing someone would film this character. Modesty is a woman who spent the first couple of decades of her life building up her own personal highly-successful organized-crime ring, specializing in art and jewelry theft; then she got into a personal fight with a drug smuggling gang that turned bloody. She disbanded the gang and got out of the crime business altogether; the only member she still stays in contact with is her best friend Willy Garvin. She's wealthy enough that she never needs to work again, and she and Willy are deadly enough that they don't really have any enemies left from the old days. And she's bored. So she travels around the world, hiking into or parachuting into the most dangerous places in the world, just to hang out and get to know people. Sometimes, when it amuses her, or when the enemies are particularly loathsome, she does jobs for British intelligence that are too hard for the James Bonds of the world to tackle, especially if they involve chances to kill drug gang lords or rape gang leaders.

I have no idea what Quentin Tarantino would do with that character. Nor do I have even the slightest idea where you could find an actress who was comfortable playing an action hero who is so relentlessly bipolar; Modesty changes gears from languidly sensuous and playfully ironic to cold and deadly professional and back at the flip of a switch. The odds of a Modesty Blaise movie being any less of a train wreck than My Name is Modesty are awfully low. As much as I would desperately love to see a good treatment of it brought to the screen, it has always struck me as borderline unfilmable, as too good for Hollywood. On the other hand, I thought that Sin City and Watchmen were unfilmable, too, and if I'd read L.A. Confidential before I'd seen it, I would have declared it unfilmable, too. So the thought that some years ago, some studio came close to giving a serious director a chance to tackle the project? It gives me chills.



May. 18th, 2010 10:30 pm (UTC)
I'm a pretty big Modesty Blaise fan-- I've got all but one of the books, and she's one of my favorite fictional characters.

Aside from the fun of the books, O'Donnell gets big points for portraying Kuwait as an easy-to-take prize long before Iraq grabbed it.