The quest for originality in mainstream film and fiction in the last few years has led to the relaxation of borders between genres, resulting in increasingly absurd mash-ups and sacrilegious assaults on classic literature and historical figures. Among the victims are Shakespeare (the movie thriller “Anonymous”), Jane Austen (the novels “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and “Mr. Darcy, Vampyre”), and the 16th president of the United States (the novel and movie “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”).
One of the next victims of this tendency will be Sir Isaac Newton, MP (1642-1727), the English astronomer, mathematician, natural philosopher, and theologian who, with or without the help of a falling apple, established the law of universal gravitation and enumerated the Three Laws of Motion. As reported by the Hollywood Reporter, the producer-director Rob Cohen is writing an action-thriller script about Newton that will apparently focus less on his scientific work than on his role “as the chief detective and head of the British Mint.”
The project is being backed by Ron Bloom and Gene Kirkwood’s vertically integrated, multi-platform studio BIteSize Entertainment and the plan is to develop a Newton franchise. Cohen, whose films as a director include “The Fast and the Furious,” “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” and the upcoming “Alex Cross,” will supervise the design of a graphic novel based on his screenplay.
One of the 17th and 18th centuries’ greatest polymaths, Newton became warden of the Royal Mint in 1696 and three years later its most famous master, a post he held until his death. He oversaw the Great Recoinage of 1696 and waged war against currency clippers and counterfeiters. Because he personally went undercover in taverns to smoke them out, an Isaac Newton detective thriller is not as far-fetched as it seems, though an action movie might be a stretch.
There is plenty of room for character development. Newton was purportedly a generous friend but a bitter enemy, who suffered delusions of paranoia and had a nervous breakdown in 1693. An intensely private man, he never married and is believed never to have had a lover. A movie could change all that.
Image: Sir Isaac Newton illustration by William Derby, engraving by W.J. Fry, 1829 / Courtesy National Library of Medicine