Ang Lee in Talks to Direct Clone Assassin Movie 'Gemini Man' (Exclusive)

Ang Lee -Getty - H 2016
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The legendary high-concept thriller was first set up at Disney 20 years ago.

An action movie project that has remained one of Hollywood’s most fabled unproduced films for over 20 years is getting another shot at the big screen.

Ang Lee, the celebrated filmmaker behind Life of Pi and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is in negotiations to direct Gemini Man, the high-concept action thriller for Skydance Media, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. 

The story centers on an aging assassin who tried to get out of the business but finds himself in the ultimate battle: fighting his own clone who is 25 years younger than him and at the peak of his abilities.

The project was first set up at Disney in 1997 as a pitch by Darren Lemke, with Don Murphy producing and Tony Scott directing. While always popular with executives inside and outside the studio, Gemini was considered unfilmable for many years. The producer and execs wanted to use computer effects to have the same actor play both parts, but the technology to have one actor realistically carry that off for an entire movie did not  exist.

That still didn’t stop development on it as writer after writer — including Brian Helgeland, Andrew Niccol and David Benioff — worked on drafts of the script. (Benioff was paid a reported $2 million for his work, showing exactly just how much the concept was loved.)

Curtis Hanson was attached to direct at one point, while Mel Gibson circled to star at another.

However, technological evolution took small steps toward Gemini’s direction. David Fincher aged and de-aged Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Tron: Legacy did the same with Jeff Bridges.

Marvel in recent years has made it much more common with Captain America: Civil War, which featured a young Robert Downey Jr.; Ant-Man's young Michael Douglas; and again in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with Kurt Russell. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story also did it with Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing.

But all these examples have been for short scenes, not for the duration of an entire movie, something that would strain budgetary and creative resources as well as believability.

(Looper, directed by Rian Johnson, treaded similar terrain as Gemini, using a time-travel conceit rather than cloning, but used makeup to have Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play the same character.)

Skydance picked up the dormant project in October 2016 and Jerry Bruckheimer is now producing, with Murphy exec producing. The company is ready to go all in, believing the time is right and the technology is here. And it believes that Lee, who has pushed the envelope with Life of Pi and experimented with cameras with the more recent drama Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, is the right man to pull it off.

Lee is repped by CAA.