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Duke Nukem, the 1990s video game that helped popularize the first-person shooter genre, is getting the feature film treatment.
Legendary Entertainment, the company behind Dune and the Godzilla movie series, has picked up the movie rights from Gearbox, with Cobra Kai creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg on board to produce.
Legendary will also produce, as will Jean-Julien Baronnet (Assassin’s Creed) of Marla Studios, which specializes in video game adaptations. Heald, Hurwitz and Schlossberg are producing via their banner, Counterbalance Entertainment.
Launched with a self-titled debut in 1991 from Apogee Software, later called 3D Realms, Nukem is a $1 billion video game franchise that began life as a platform game for personal computers. When the third game, Duke Nukem 3D, came out in 1996, it became not only a critical hit but one that helped usher in the ubiquity of first-person games for years to come. After lying low for years in stalled development, the franchise came back in 2011, after Gearbox acquired 3D Realms, with Duke Nukem Forever.
Nukem centers on its titular antihero, modeled on certain attributes from 1980s action movie protagonists (including catchphrases), who fights an alien invasion in Los Angeles. He travels from strip clubs and movie sets to moon bases and spaceships, dealing with mutated LAPD officers, women used in alien incubators, and the Cycloid Emperor.
A search for a writer to tackle the material is underway. And while no director is on board, the door is open for one of the Counterbalance team to potentially sit behind the camera.
With its over-the-top action movie stylings, it’s no surprise that Hollywood has been trying to adapt the game into a feature for quite a while. Various indie producers have attempted to develop Nukem, though none got very far. Gearbox had a Nukem project in development at Paramount with John Cena attached to star over four years ago, but that stalled out.
That led Gearbox to become more deliberate in its Hollywood strategy for adaptations of its video games, and it now has one already on deck: Borderlands, directed by Eli Roth and featuring an all-star cast including Cate Blanchett and Kevin Hart. Lionsgate is behind the movie, which is expected to be released later in 2022.
The Counterbalance trio made a name for themselves in the franchise comedy spheres: Heald penned the Hot Tub Time Machine franchise for MGM while Hurwitz and Schlossberg first wrote then later took over directing the Harold & Kumar comedies. They reimagined The Karate Kid for a new generation with Cobra Kai, a runaway hit for Netflix that also garnered numerous Emmy nominations. Heald, Hurwitz and Schlossberg are the creators, executive producers and showrunners of the series, writing and directing many of the episodes.
Counterbalance is repped by CAA. Heald is additionally repped by Behr Abramson, while Hurwitz and Schlossberg are repped by Hansen Jacobson.
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