J.J. Abrams, Warner Bros. Team for Adaptation of Stephen King Crime Novel ‘Billy Summers’
It's unclear if Abrams, who hasn't directed a movie since 2019's 'Rise of Skywalker,' will helm the adaptation. J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot banner have teamed up with Warner Bros. for the feature adaptation of Stephen King's 2021 novel Billy Summers.
Appian Way will also produce the project, which is being written by Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz.
A year ago, Bad Robot was developing the IP as a limited series with Zwick and Herskovitz attached to adapt, and Zwick looking to direct a good portion of the episodes, if not all.
Not one of King's horror novels, Summers focuses on a 44-year-old hitman, the eponymous Billy Summers, who is considering retirement when he accepts one last job from a regular client. ("One last job" is always synonymous with "Things go awry," but we'll get to that in a moment.) Taking up a cover story that he is a novelist, Summers ensconces himself in a small town as he preps for the hit, and in his spare time actually begins to write a novel, which turns into his life story, from his little sister being killed by their mother's boyfriend to him becoming a decorated sniper.
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The hit ... goes awry when the regular client doesn't pay and Summers escapes a trap. His life gets even more complicated when he finds out there's a bounty on his head, and he saves a rape victim named Alice. Summers and Alice then end up on a cross-country journey to rectify the hitman's many wrongs.
The book was critically well-received upon its release.
It is unclear if Abrams would direct Billy Summers. As a features director, Abrams has almost exclusively hewed toward established properties. He made his feature debut with Mission: Impossible III (2006), the Tom Cruise film that helped revitalized the franchise after the previous installment was poorly received six years earlier. Abrams then pivoted to relaunch the Star Trek galaxy with the 2009 reboot that starred Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. He then directed the Spielbergian passion project -- and his only original movie -- Super 8 in 2011 before helming Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013).
Before Into Darkness arrived in theaters, he surprised Hollywood by signing on to relaunch the galaxy far, far away with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the 2015 film that introduced the franchise to a new generation and was a commercial and critical success. He returned to Star Wars one last time to close out the sequel trilogy with The Rise of Skywalker (2019), a film that, though it took in more than $1 billion at the box office, was not as well received by hard-core fans or critics (consider that Force Awakens made roughly double that).
In the years since Rise of Skywalker, Abrams has focused on television, the medium in which he made a name for himself with hits such as Felicity, Alias and Lost. As part of a massive overall deal between Bad Robot and Warners, Abrams has been developing projects such as the pricey Demimonde for HBO Max, which was scrapped amid the Warner Bros. Discovery merger, as well as several DC projects. Many of the latter have been waylaid by the creation of DC Studios, run by James Gunn and Peter Safran, although his Black Superman project, being written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and on which he is a producer, remains in active development.