‘Sgt. Rock’ reloads as movie project — but not as a WWII story

Feb. 01, 2010 | 11:56 p.m.
Sgt Rock

Producer Joel Silver says the long-discussed Hollywood adaptation of the “Sgt. Rock” combat comic books has new life — but the leader of Easy Company won’t be fighting the good fight in 1940s Europe this time around.

Silver said the plan now is for the old warhorse of DC Comics to serve his country in the not-too-distant future. The idea of a future battlefield setting has reinvigorated a property that has flirted with the big screen for decades. 

“I’m really close on that now,” Silver said of the “Sgt. Rock” film. “What we’ve done is gone back to it and we’ve done a new draft that actually came in this week. We have a shot at that one now. I feel good about it. That one might happen.”

The army sergeant celebrated his 50th anniversary last year — Rock’s first appearance was in “Our Army at War” No. 83 in the summer of 1959. Created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, the tales of Rock and the soldiers of Easy Company were action-packed but they also played out as grim parables about war, patriotism, duty and despair. In his infantry boots, Frank Rock was a steely but soulful American everyman, adept at combat but never at ease with the bloodshed around him.

In the 1980s, Arnold Schwarzenegger was prepared to play the G.I. hero and John Milius and David Peoples had a script together that would have changed the soldier’s heritage to explain the action star’s Austrian accent. That project petered out but Rock’s name came up again as a film property, most notably when director Guy Ritchie was planning on directing a version set in World War II with Silver as producer and, it was rumored, Bruce Willis in the title role. That was the plan as recently as 2008.

Maybe “Inglorious Basterds” and its scruffy band of battlefield characters was too close to the ethos of vintage “Sgt. Rock” and its cast of characters, which included Bulldozer, the beefy but not-so-bright corporal; Little Sure Shot, the Apache sniper; and Joseph “Wild Man” Shapiro, a history professor known for his combat rages. Either way, it now looks like Rock’s call to duty in Hollywood will be a fight for the future.

“It’s a little bit in the future,” Silver said of the setting. “As a war movie, it’s not going to be ‘where it’s been,’ it’s going to be ‘where it’s going.’ We didn’t want to do Iraq, we didn’t want to do a contemporary war. We wanted to do a sort of futuristic war. It’s pretty strong. Chad St. John wrote the script and we’ve got Francis Lawrence involved in developing it with us. It’s not a ‘go’ movie yet but I’m feeling good about it.”

– Geoff Boucher

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