Unmade Sequels: what happened to Wanted 2?

James McAvoy, Common and Angelina Jolie in Wanted
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We take a look at sequels that have, at one stage or another, been either in talks or confirmed. This week, it’s the sequel to 2008’s hyper-kinetic action thriller Wanted.

This article contains spoilers for Wanted.

Of all the action films that could have had sequels, it’s a shame that Wanted is still left wanting. Released in 2008, the film explored the life of cripplingly shy outcast Wesley Gibson, as played by James McAvoy. Crushed by life, trapped in a job he despises with a girlfriend who is cheating on him with his best friend (an early film role for Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Chris Pratt), life couldn’t get much worse. However, a seemingly chance encounter with Angelina Jolie’s mysterious assassin Fox at a supermarket leads him to discover that his father was a member of The Fraternity, a society of world class assassins who murder people based on the predictions of looms at a cotton mill.

The film also featured Morgan Freeman, Thomas Kretschmann, Common, Konstantin Khabensky and Dato Bakhtadze. Veteran British actor Terence Stamp co-stars as a retired assassin and, in a wonderfully idiosyncratic piece of casting, Hustle actor Marc Warren appears as brutal boxer The Repairman, who trains Wesley in hand to hand combat.

The film, based on the comics by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, was directed by Timur Bekmambetov in his English language debut. The script came from writing team Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, with rewrites from Fast And Furious alumni Chris Morgan.

The film has gained a cult following in the years since its release, due to the hyperviolent action sequences and Bekmambetov’s directorial style. It made over $300 million on a $75 million budget, and the world created in the film is rife with possibility for future stories. So what happened?

In fact, Wanted 2 was actually announced in the month after the film’s release. According to IGN, Millar was excited about the prospect of returning to the world of Wanted and had ideas for a sequel. He said that “I’m working on the story with the producer at the moment and J.G. and I will both be execs on the project (i.e. – we get paid the same money over again). It’s a nice arrangement. The movie looks set to make $300 million plus quite comfortably and they estimate the same again on DVD. So everyone is that lovely combo of both stunned and happy. They’re even talking about a third one”.

With confidence so high, the fact that it never appeared is even more baffling.

Morgan Freeman in Wanted

Chris Morgan was confirmed to return as screenwriter, but due to working on a Gears Of War film that was also never made, as well as the Fast And Furious franchise, soon after he was replaced by future Snake Eyes writer Evan Spiliotopoulos.

According to Movieweb, Bekmambetov announced in 2009 that pre-production was underway and shooting would begin that autumn. Angelina Jolie was also mooted for a comeback, in what capacity she would have appeared is unclear given that she died during the climax of Wanted.

Time passed, and still the film didn’t materialize. Bekmambetov turned his attention to other projects, with his next big release being 2012’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

McAvoy continued to show interest in the sequel when asked in interviews, always citing problems with the script and getting the story right, saying in an interview with Inside Movies that Universal were “not finding it very easy to come up with a story that they’re passionate about.”

In 2011, it was reported by Collider that original writers Michael Brandt and Derek Haas had been hired to write the script. Haas said that the story would “pick up Wesley a few years later and go back in for another round.” As reported by Screen Rant, they also teased the introduction of a new female character, who would take on the role filled by Wesley in the original. Wesley would then have guided her through assassin training. Of the character, Haas said that “She’s a young woman who is in his situation in the first movie. She’s got a shitty life. He’s sort of in the Fox role. This new girl is brought into the world.”

The major sticking point for the sequel moving forward always seemed to be Jolie’s reluctance to return. During an interview with Coming Soon to promote action thriller Salt in 2010, she said that “Being dead makes it difficult. They were (trying to bring me back) but I kind of feel like if I die in a movie, I should die actually. I’m that way, and that character is not as complex as Salt. It would just be doing the exact same thing in another movie, so it’s not that interesting to me.” Jolie’s luck in the sequels department continued, as a sequel to Salt remains in development hell.

It seems that until Universal can find a script they are happy with, Wanted 2 will remain a fever dream on the wishlist of many an action aficionado.

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