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'Wanted' director has crazy idea for a sequel - stream the original on Peacock
Will we ever seen the return of Wesley and the Fraternity?
It's been almost 15 years since Timur Bekmambetov's loose film adaptation of Mark Millar and J.G. Jones' graphic novel Wanted (now streaming on Peacock) hit theaters, and fans are still holding out hope for a sequel to the bullet-curving blockbuster.
Following an ancient organization of assassins known as the "Fraternity," the film follows Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), a neurotic office worker, who transforms into a one-man killing machine. With supporting turns from Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp, Common, Thomas Kretschmann, and a pre-Jurassic World Chris Pratt, Wanted is an interesting, star-studded experiment in cinematic style: assassination victims are named by a mystical loom and Fraternity members can manipulate the trajectory of their bullets.
And while the subject of gun control is more relevant (and controversial) than ever before, Bekmambetov believes that firearms wouldn't play a large role in the sequel — if he's lucky enough to make it.
"The Fraternity now, if it exist[ed] today, I’m sure would be in [the] digital space," the Russian-Kazakh filmmaker told SYFY WIRE back in 2018. "They can get messages, the names from some hackers ... they will use blockchain to set up the assassinations. We live in a different world now. In [the years since] 2008, I am sure our world is not about guns or explosive materials anymore. It’s about the information, it’s about the big data, blockchain, dark web, cryptocurrency. It’s where we live now."
The director's emphasis on the power of the internet stems from his interest in "Screenlife," a recently emergent form of filmmaking that he describes as an entirely different language. Following a Skype meeting with a professional colleague, Bekmambetov became aware of an an untapped area in which to tell stories capable of reflecting how people disseminate information in the 21st Century.
"When we finished [the meeting], she forgot to un-share [her screen] and for a few minutes, I witnessed everything [she was doing] onscreen [while she was still] talking to me. Suddenly, I understood that I am kind of inside her [head] and I suddenly understood that I saw such an unusual point-of-view," he remembers. "Because we live today onscreen … I’m making moral choices, I’m doing business, everything. [The] most important events of my life [are] happening onscreen today."
Examples of Screenlife can be seen in films like Unfriended, Searching, and Unfriended: Dark Web, all of which were produced by Bekmambetov and all of which tell stories through webcams, instant messenger, and social media. "There’s no way you can tell a story about today’s world and today’s heroes, without showing their screens, because a camera cannot capture that," he explains.
As a result, he's currently teaching the techniques of Screenlife all over the world to a new generation of filmmakers, instructing them on how to turn their mobile devices into a novel mode of cinematography. Taking risks, exploring new forms of storytelling, and finding promising young talent are what drive Bekmambetov, whose career started off with low budget, B-movie projects like the supernatural thriller Night Watch and the Roger Corman-produced Arena.
"I want to spend time with people who are interesting for me and young filmmakers have this fresh point-of-view," he says. "They’re not scared yet. I like not to teach them, I like to learn from them. It just helps me to be a [better] filmmaker, to create something new [and] experiment. We should live really exciting lives and entertain ourselves, make something entertaining and surprising for ourselves. Then I hope it will be interesting for the audience. If you remember Wanted or Night Watch, you will understand what I mean."
Bekmambetov was also a producer of Ilya Naishuller's video game-inspired Hardcore Henry, told from the literal first-person perspective of the main character. "[Hardcore Henry] is another example of my interests," he continues. "I like to discover young talent and to create genres, new forms of cinema. It started with Night Watch. Before Night Watch, I made a movie [called] Peshavar Waltz. It is where it came from, this idea of making not expensive, but very fresh [films]."
Bekmambetov says he's drawn to gonzo projects like Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter because he's interested in forging a unique path within the entertainment industry. "[I want] to shake the ground," he declares. "To make something that nobody will make. Wanted was kind of an extension [of] Night Watch for me. It was like the same thing, but on a different level, a different scale because it’s dark, controversial, it’s edgy, very dramatic. Night Watch and Wanted have the same edginess because you never know [who's] good or [who's] bad. It’s unclear. It’s like a film noir ... It’s not really black and white."
Dozens of projects — feature films, television shows, documentaries, and more — have already been made with the Screenlife approach, which Bekmambetov does not see as a fleeting fad or niche product.
"I believe that Screenlife is not [bound by] genre, it’s more like a language and different filmmakers can use this language to tell their stories and I’m sure it’s not gimmicky because it’s not like found footage. Found footage is another way [of] making movies about our reality, but Screenlife movies [are] movies about [a] different reality because we’re living it now."
And as for that aforementioned Wanted sequel, he's hoping it'll become a part of the Screenlife family. "I hope it will be [a] Screenlife movie!" he concludes. "For me, how I see this movie, the next Wanted, is [a] Screenlife version, Screenlife reality, Screenlife world."
Wanted is now streaming on Peacock.