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There Can Be Only None: Ryan Reynolds Leaves Highlander Re-Make-Can This Project Please Die Now?

In the Highlander universe, the only way to kill an immortal is decapitation.  Why?  Because swords are cool and the 80s were a weird time, duh.  However, in the real world the way you kill the Highlander as a film property is possibly to have both its director and star walk out on it.  Well, the long-gestating Highlander remake lost its director last November.  Today, it just lost its Highlander, Ryan Reynolds.  More details below.

Highlander Reynolds
That is one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen.  It looks like Ryan Reynolds’ face is suffocating poor Christopher Lambert’s body.

According to The Wrap,  28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo worked on a remake of the original Highlander for around a year.  The remake is to re-tell the basic story of the 1986 Highlander – immortals exist in the world, but they only find out they are immortal when they die and come back to life for the first time.  Of course, you know what they say – when God opens a window he makes you cut off other people’s heads.  I can’t tell you exactly who says that, but it’s rather accurate in this case.  So, the immortals set about hunting one another and cutting off each other’s heads, an action which results in the surviving party absorbing all the defeated party’s life force via what is best described as full-body orgasm aided by lightning:

Highlander Movie
Christopher Lambert is almost there in this picture.

This immortal combat is spurred on by a myth among the immortals (they are a chatty bunch) about there being some sort of prize awaiting the last surviving immortal.  As such, they all live under the mantra of “There can be only one!”  Immortals obviously don’t know how to share.

In the original Highlander, the protagonist Connor MacLeod (and if you just said “of the clan MacLeod” in response to his name then you sure know your Highlander) was played by Christopher Lambert.  For the remake, Fresnadillo had cast Ryan Reynolds to play Connor.  However, Fresnadillo exited the project in November of last year, citing creative differences.  Ryan Reynolds is said to have finally followed him out the door because Summitt Entertainment and producers Neal Moritz and Peter Davis had yet to replace Fresnadillo, leaving the project and Reynolds in limbo.

Film Title: Fast & Furious
-“Justin, what do you mean I have to use this car to somehow cut that guy’s head off?”
-“Oh, crap. Sorry. You’re right. I forgot for a second that this isn’t the Highlander remake.”

This is far from the first setback for the project, which originally signed Justin Lin to direct in September of 2009 before he left in 2011 for Fast & The Furious 6, which was a very wise move on his part as it turns out.  Lin might be available again, though, since he has reportedly passed on directing the inevitable Fast & The Furious 7.

However, maybe Lin – or anyone else for that matter – should just stay very, very far away from this thing.  The last Highlander film to receive a theatrical release – 2000’s Highlander: Endgame – only made $15 million worldwide on a budget of $25 million.  The follow-up – 2007’s Highlander: The Source – took 7 years to happen, and ended up as an embarrassing bargain-basement budget affair which premiered in the US on the SyFy Channel followed by a quick DVD release.  Sadly, producers Peter S. Davis and William Panzer seemed to legitimately believe The Source would be the start of a trilogy of new Highlander films.   However, Davis & Panzer have been with the franchise since the very beginning and refuse to let it simply go away.  Panzer passed away in 2007, but Davis – the guy partially responsible for the horrendously awful Highlander 2 – has been working on a remake ever since.  Granted, Fast & The Furious producer Neal Moritz is also attached, but, still…

The 1986 Highlander ended with Connor defeating the sole remaining immortal and thus winning the prize, which turned out to be the ability to read the thoughts of every living creature.  He somehow uses this power to try and bring about world peace in Highlander 2: The Quickening, but fails, begins to age, and goes to operas for the sole purpose of having dramatic flashbacks.  More importantly, The Quickening reveals the immortals are actually secretly aliens who just don’t quite remember that part yet.  It was a craptastic idea, which Highlander 3 completely ignored in favor of largely re-purposing the plot of the original with Mario Van Peebless’ new villain a stand-in for Clancy Brown’s 1986 villain.  Highlander: Endgame featured Christopher Lambert passing the katana to Adrian Paul, who had starred as Duncan MacLeod in the TV show spin-off.  The Source centered upon Duncan and Methos, another character from from the TV show, and a bunch of new characters in search for some sci-fi source of their immortality.

Adrian Paul
Adrian Paul as Duncan from the Highlander TV show. What’s not to love, ladies? He’ll pose all Fabio-style for you, and if someone cuts in line at the movies he’ll cut their head off.

This is not a franchise which warrants re-birth.  The first film was good for its time, but by the definition of its ending everything that came after it really shouldn’t exist.  Luckily, the television show, which aired in syndication for six seasons from 1992-1998, was rather good and at times truly excellent (although age has not necessarily treated it well).  Granted, how could Connor have a clansman named Duncan out there who encounters immortals from his past every single week if Connor was the last of the immortals, but it’s not like the films really cared about that kind of thing either.  However, for whatever reason this is a property which has translated better to episodic/serialized television than it has to film, even if the other spin-off TV show Raven only lasted one season.

The Highlander franchise is also notable for being centered around two Scottish Highlanders played by actors not remotely Scottish (Christopher Lambert is American-French and Adrian Paul is British-Italian).  Of course, there is a very notable Scottish actor in the first two theatrical Highlander films – Sean Connery, but they had him playing a Spanish nobleman (of Egyptian decent, apparently) named Ramirez.

This inspired some fun jokes from Craig Ferguson [the Highlander bit starts at the 4 minute mark]:

Here is a compilation of ridiculous scenes from 1986’s Highlander:

What about you?  Are you actually looking forward to a new Highlander movie?  Or did you have no idea until now that they were even remaking Highlander?  Are you a Highlander virgin curious as to where to start?  My advice?  Skip the movies entirely and just watch the TV show.  And is Ryan Reynolds now officially a film franchise killer?  Leave a comment.  I like it, I’ll respond.  I don’t, I’ll respond.  I’m indifferent, I’ll respond.

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