Uncharted Movie Development Hell: A Timeline Of All The Key Events
Hollywood movies can take a long time to make, but there is a special category for those with particularly protracted productions. This is known as "Development Hell," and if there was ever a movie to fit the bill, it's the Uncharted film. For over 10 years the action-adventure movie based on Naughty Dog's hit video game franchise has been in various stages of production, and has seen six directors get hired, all of whom quit, one by one. The movie has gone through numerous script revisions and re-writes, while rumors of huge paydays for stars like Mark Wahlberg have never come to be. We know more than usual about the Uncharted movie--which was described by one Sony executive as a "really fun summer adventure film like the Lara Croft movies (with a little bit of Dan Brown thrown in)"--thanks to the Sony email hack. That just makes the story even juicier.
Currently, Spider-Man star Tom Holland is attached to the film to portray a young Nathan Drake in a prequel to the story told in the Uncharted games, with Mark Wahlberg portraying Victor Sullivan, or "Sully" as you may remember him. The film has been in production for such a long time that Wahlberg was initially cast as Drake, before seemingly aging out of the role. We've rounded up all the key events in the Uncharted movie's history, from its origins back in 2008 to the latest news that came in March 2020 when production was shut down due to the COVID-19 crisis.
October 2008 -- Avid Arad Announces Uncharted Movie With Sony
More than a decade ago, former Marvel movie producer Avi Arad announced he was working with Sony to produce an Uncharted movie. He told Kotaku at the time that series protagonist Nathan Drake is an interesting character who stands apart from another fictional adventurer he is often compared to: Indiana Jones.
"The best thing about Drake is he's not an archeologist," Arad said. "He's not a benevolent guy, but he's certainly not a great guy. Indiana Jones was always a good guy and he relentlessly did the right thing. Drake is a guy who's being hauled over to virtue throughout the game."
Sony Hires Thomas Dean Donnelly And Joshua Oppenheimer To Write
Some of the first screenwriters on the Uncharted movie were Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer, who co-wrote the 2005 Matthew McConaughey action-adventure movie Sahara. Like Uncharted, Sahara follows a rogue archaeologist caught up in a military conflict. Sahara was a huge box-office bomb, and Donnelly and Oppenheimer would eventually leave Uncharted.
October 2010 -- Nathan Fillion Launches Campaign To Play Drake
After learning of Sony's plans to make an Uncharted movie, Firefly actor Nathan Fillion launched a campaign to try to rally support to get himself cast as Nathan Drake. Fillion absolutely bears a resemblance to Nathan Drake, but it's unknown if he was ever seriously considered.
October 2010 -- David O. Russell Announced As Writer/Director
I Heart Huckabees and Three Kings director David O. Russell was hired to write and direct the Uncharted movie in October 2010, following reports of stalled negotiations. That year, Russell also released The Fighter starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, a boxing movie that earned multiple Oscar nominations and wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo.
December 2010 -- Russell Responds To Campaign For Fillion To Play Drake
In a somewhat-awkward exchange following a screening of The Fighter, a fan asked Russell about the campaign to cast Fillion as Drake in his movie. Russell didn't seem very enthusiastic about the idea, and seemed unfamiliar with the campaign. Russell did, however, praise the fan for standing up for and supporting Fillion and his attempt to land the role.
2011 -- Mark Wahlberg, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams Rumored
One of the more fascinating early casting rumours for the Uncharted movie came about in 2011. Rumours and reports suggested that Mark Wahlberg was being discussed for the role of Drake (something we will revisit later), with Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Scarlett Johansson, and Amy Adams also reportedly on the shortlist for unspecified roles in the Uncharted movie. Whether or not any of the actors were ever seriously considered is unknown, though newer reports suggest that Wahlberg will in fact get a role in the action movie.
May 2011 -- Russell Drops Out
In May 2011, Russell became the first of six directors (so far!) to quit the Uncharted movie for various reasons. At the time, it was reported that Russell had "creative differences" with the studio, and that was the reason for his exit.
July 2011 -- Neil Burger Named Next Director
Following the exit of Russell, Sony hired Limitless director Neil Burger to write and direct the new Uncharted movie. At this time it was speculated that Wahlberg would be dropping out, as his involvement was said to have been tied to working with Russell, with whom he made I Heart Huckabees, The Fighter, and Three Kings.
August 2012 -- Burger Quits; Sony Hires Marianne And Cormac Wibberly To Re-Write
Burger didn't stay attached to the Uncharted movie for long. He quit the movie about 13 months after joining, leaving Uncharted to work on the first Divergent movie, which eventually released in 2014. Along with that news, it was reported that Sony had hired yet another writing team, this time bringing on Marianna and Cormac Wibberly, who previously wrote the Nicolas Cage-fronted National Treasure series. The Wibberly duo would eventually leave Uncharted as well.
June 2013 -- Seth Rogen And Evan Goldberg Asked To Write
In one of the more surprising developments about the Uncharted movie, comedy writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg revealed in June 2013 that Sony had pursued them to write the Uncharted movie on multiple occasions. They declined every time, and . Goldberg remarked that he and Rogen could't come up with a script that was new and fresh. "It's just going to be Indiana Jones," Golberg said. "If we could figure out a way to make it not Indiana Jones, it'd be awesome."
February 2014 -- Seth Gordon Named New Director; New Writers Come Aboard
The Uncharted movie's third director, Seth Gordon, was hired in February 2014. Gordon had a history with video game films, as he directed the 2007 Donkey Kong documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which chronicled the rivalry between Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe. Also at the time, it was confirmed that Bad Boys writer David Guggenheim was brought on to write a new script.
November 2014 -- Chris Pratt Passes On Playing Drake
The same year that Chris Pratt starred in Guardians of the Galaxy, the actor revealed that he said no to the role of Nathan Drake. The information came secondhand from a story by The Hollywood Reporter, and it had no details on why Pratt turned it down. To this day, it appears that Pratt has never commented on the situation. Also at the time, it was reported that Sony hired journalist-turned-movie-writer Mark Boal, who won a screenplay Oscar for The Hurt Locker, to write the newest draft of the Uncharted movie.
April 2015 -- Sony Pictures Email Hack Reveals New Info
The big Sony Pictures email hack in April 2015 revealed a number of key particulars about the Uncharted movie as it relates to how executives were thinking about it. One executive said the Uncharted movie won't be "silly" and "soft" like the National Treasure film. Another executive, Adam North, said the Uncharted movie will be a "really fun summer adventure film like Lara Croft movies (with a little bit of Dan Brown thrown in)." Also as part of the email hack, the 124-page script that Guggenheim wrote emerged online, revealing key details about what he had planned for the film before he eventually left. The leaked emails also revealed things like potential shooting locations (Australia and Mexico), as well as a potential $15 million payday for Wahlberg to play Drake.
June 2015 -- Seth Gordon Quits
Gordon became the third Uncharted movie director to quit the project when he exited the Uncharted movie in June 2015. A report said Sony boss Tom Rothman wanted to "change the creative direction of the film" and cut some of the budget in the process. Gordon chose not to stay onboard during these changes.
October 2016 -- Stranger Things Director Shawn Levy Joins
About a year later, Sony hired the fourth director for the Uncharted movie--Shawn Levy. At the time, Levy was known for directing the Night at the Museum films, while he also produced Stranger Things, which premiered in 2016 on Netflix. It was also re-confirmed at the time that The A-Team writer Joe Carnahan had written the latest draft of the Uncharted movie script.
February 2017 -- Neil Druckmann Responds
A bit of behind-the-scenes drama emerged in February 2017 when Uncharted movie writer Joe Carnahan spoke about what he described as an R-rated script for the film. The writer also said he heard from Naughty Dog that the developers are happy about his vision for the film. Naughty Dog boss Neil Druckmann quickly fired back, saying no one at the studio has seen the movie's script and that he wished Carnahan would stop suggesting he has the support of the developer.
May 2017 -- Tom Holland Announced As Drake
Spider-Man actor Tom Holland was announced for the role of Nathan Drake in May 2017, making the movie seem more likely to go ahead than it had in years. At the time, it was also confirmed that writer Rafe Judkins (Marvel's Agents of SHIELD) had come aboard to write the latest draft. Holland was and remains one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood, and him signing on for Uncharted is a very big deal. He's also in-house talent for the Uncharted movie, as Uncharted and Spider-Man are both Sony properties. Holland's involvement in Uncharted hasn't been without its issues however, but we'll get to that...
July 2018 -- Allan Ungar Short Film Impresses
Independent of everything else going on, Canadian filmmaker Allan Ungar released a highly polished 14-minute Uncharted fan film on his YouTube channel, and it exploded in popularity. To date, it's been viewed more than 6.5 million times. Nathan Fillion stars as Nathan Drake, with a supporting cast that includes Avatar actor Stephan Lang as Sully and Mircea Monroe (How I Met Your Mother) as Elena. The short was praised for cinematography that excellently emulated how the Uncharted video games look, with over-the-shoulder shooting scenes, slow-motion punching, and transitions.
December 2018 -- Shawn Levy Quits
The Uncharted movie lost its fourth director in December 2018 when Shawn Levy departed the project. Levy left Uncharted to direct another video game movie, Free Guy, which stars Ryan Reynolds as a man who one day discovers he is actually an NPC in a video game. That movie, unlike Uncharted, is actually coming out in the near future--it hits theatres this July.
April 2019 -- 10 Cloverfield Lane Director Dan Trachtenberg Comes Aboard To Direct
The Uncharted movie's fifth director, 10 Cloverfield Lane's Dan Trachtenberg, came aboard the project in April 2019. The stars seemed to have aligned, or so we thought. Trachtenberg is a big fan of the Uncharted series, and game director Neil Druckmann said he was enthusiastic to see what Trachtenberg would do with Nathan Drake. Trachtenberg also had experience working on game adaptations, having made the popular Portal fan film Portal: No Escape and directed the Resident Evil-inspired Black Mirror episode "Playtest." By this point you can see where this is going ... Trachtenberg would eventually leave the project (but more on that later).
April 2019 -- Chris Pine, Woody Harrelson, Chris Hemsworth, Matthew McConaughey, Bryan Cranston Rumored
One of the more intriguing rumours surrounding the Uncharted movie came about in April 2019 when some unsubstantiated reports suggested that Chris Pine, Woody Harrelson, Chris Hemsworth, and Matthew McConaughey were being considered on some level for the role of Victor "Sully" Sullivan. These reports followed earlier speculation that Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston might also be in the running for the role. As of yet, no one has been officially cast.
June 2019 -- Another Re-Write
Newcomers Jonathan Rosenberg and Mark Walker were announced as the newest writers for the Uncharted movie in June 2019. The pair have no major writing credits to their name.
August 2019 -- Dan Trachtenberg Quits
Dan Trachtenberg, the fifth director hired for Uncharted, quit the movie in August 2019. Why Trachtenberg left the movie is unknown, but at the time it was reported that Holland was still attached and the movie was still planned to go ahead. Sony was reportedly moving quickly to find a replacement, and they found one just a month later.
May 2019 -- PlayStation Productions Formed
In May of 2019, the video game publisher PlayStation created an all-new business unit dedicated to making movies. PlayStation Productions is a new company that will look back through PlayStation's catalog of titles for TV and movie adaptations. The company, which is based on the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City, California, will make Uncharted as its first movie.
September 2019 -- Travis Knight Becomes Sixth Director
The sixth director for Uncharted, Travis Knight, was announced in September, just a month after Dan Trachtenberg quit the movie. Knight is known for directing the Transformers movie Bumblebee starring Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena, as well as the excellent Kubo and the Two Strings.
November 2019 -- Marky Mark Closing In
Just before Thanksgiving, it was reported that Mark Wahlberg was closing in on a deal to star in the Uncharted movie as Sully. Voiced by Richard Francis McGonagle in the video games, Sully is Drake's father figure and often his partner,who gives Drake advice and guidance that the treasure-hunter very rarely listens to. Wahlberg was rumoured for a role in the Uncharted movie since the beginning, but whether or not Wahlberg has actually put pen to paper to sign the deal is unknown. Wahlberg would be a big get for Uncharted, as he is a bankable action movie star who earned Oscar nominations for The Fighter and The Departed.
December 2019 -- Travis Knight Becomes Sixth Director To Leave
The most recent news for the Uncharted movie came in December 2019 when Knight became the sixth director to quit the project. Knight left Uncharted due to scheduling conflicts related to Tom Holland's work on the next Spider-Man movie (due in summer 2021. It was reported at the time that Sony was still planning to release the Uncharted movie, but its December 2020 premiere date seems to be seriously in question.
January 2020 -- Sony Eyeing Ruben Fleischer To Direct
The first development on the Uncharted movie in 2020 came in January this year when it was reported that Sony was looking at Venom and Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer to direct the Uncharted movie. Fleischer is reportedly Sony's top choice, though the film studio has yet to offer the director a contract. Fleischer recently worked with Sony on the Venom movie, which despite getting mixed reviews, was a box office juggernaut.
March 2020 -- Big Names
In March, it was confirmed that actor Antonio Banderas, fresh off his Oscar nomination for Dolor y gloria, was cast in a major role in the Uncharted movie. It was also reported at the time that Sophia Ali (Grey's Anatomy) had been cast as the female lead, while Chilling Adventures of Sabrina actress Tati Gabrielle has also come aboard in a major role.
March 2020 -- COVID-19 Delay
The Uncharted movie suffered another setback in March, as Sony--which was just weeks away from rolling cameras--announced that production would be delayed due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Connected to the delay, Sony also confirmed that the Uncharted movie had shifted from March 5, 2021 to October 8, 2021, which is a delay of around seven months. Given how the COVID-19 crisis is evolving with new developments every day, it seems the movie's new date is merely a projection.
With production on the Uncharted movie currently shut down due to COVID-19, and no word on when things will pick back up, fans who are awaiting the film might want to get comfortable. It has been a long bumpy ride for the action movie. It has the star power and the backing of one of the world's biggest and most successful studios, so fans are hoping for the best once it does eventually release.