Director Chad Stahelski, known for his work on John Wick, recently provided an update on his Highlander film starring Henry Cavill where he revealed he’s not only looking to do a prequel, but hopes to turn it into a franchise.
Stahelski has been involved in a Highlander film going as far back as 2016 with the director telling The Hollywood Reporter at the time, “I’ve been a huge fan of the original property since I saw it in high school. Such great themes of immortality, love, and identity are all wrapped up in such colorful mythology.”
He added, “I can’t think of a better property that gives the opportunity to create interesting characters, mythic themes and action set pieces.”
He’s given sporadic updates on the film since. In 2017, he told Collider, “If you go back and watch the original Highlander, whether the quality holds up or not or the filmmaking process holds up, there are things about that movie beneath just the shots and the lighting, there’s a mythology there, for some reason, it hooks us.”
“We love that world. Everybody loves the immortal realm. Everybody loves the code — There can be only one,” he elaborated. “There’s something about it that hooks you, hooks me, hooks all the fanboys about it. I went so far as I know every episode of all six seasons, plus the seventh season if you count Raven as a series, plus the novels, there’s something about the world that’s hooking.”
He also told them where they were on the script, “We’re currently doing a bit of work on the overall plot structure. When I came on board, they were trying to reinvent the single Highlander property. We’ve gone since back in and we would like to really expand the world, so we consider the same shortcomings don’t happen again that happened on the original project, meaning you have one great movie and four questionable followups.”
“We want to develop a property that can give us — and again it’s not about marketing, it’s not so much about the financials, it’s about how can we make a more mythological, chapter one, chapter two, what’s a great way to tell this story,” he said.
He went on to reveal he was taking inspiration from the Highlander TV series and Star Wars.
He explained, “I think the TV series hit on a lot of great stuff wasn’t in the feature, between the watchers and all the different types of immortals. How do we get this into a feature mode before we dribble it into the TV world? Well, let’s restructure it in parts, let’s look at it like it was a TV show, let’s look at it like it was a high-end trilogy. How do we tell the story of the gathering, the quickenings, the immortals, and how do we really build this world out even more so than the original project?”
“That’s what we’re restructuring right now,” he said. “It’s taking all the good stuff that we had before I was involved in the project from the script; redeveloping the script to give us really good chapters one, two and three; and expanding the world.”
As for Star Wars he said, “The vision we’re trying to get across and what we’re trying to develop, I equate very close to Star Wars. The first one is a very satisfying ending but it does leave the door open and that’s kind of how I see this. I would really like to expand it over three. I see the gathering happening over three.”
“It’s tricky don’t get me wrong, that’s why we’re still developing it,” he noted. “We want to be able to tell three complete stories that all kind of fit. I think the Star Wars trilogy, at least up to The Empire Strikes Back, is a good example of how we want to process it.”
Stahelski also discussed how he wanted to design the film, specifically around the swordplay, “If heads coming apart is an R, great. If heads coming apart is a PG, great. Ratings are second to what we’re going to do. Highlander, I think the action is — at least what’s in my head — is going to fall on a line, for sure.”
He elaborated, “We want to design it what we think is aesthetically cool, and so far I’ve met no resistance, they’re like, ‘Look, whatever you did with John Wick with the gun stuff, we want you to try and do with the sword stuff. We want you to make something cool and something unique, and something that’s going to make audiences say ‘Wow, I haven’t seen that before.'”
In 2021, Cavill boarded the film sharing to his Instagram, “Very exciting news today! I’ve been a fan of Highlander since I was lad. From the movies in all of their 80s, Queen slathered glory to the TV show with an actor who looked remarkably like one of my brothers. Being not shy with swords, and having a director as talented as Chad Stahelski at the helm, this is an opportunity like no other. Deep diving into franchise storytelling with all the tools at our disposal, is going to make this an adventure I (and hopefully all of you) shall never forget.”
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Following the announcement, Cavill shared some details about Stahelski’s vision for the film with The Hollywood Reporter’s James Hibberd who reported, “Cavill says Stahelski’s vision is a more grounded-in-reality take than the original movies and show, and will play a bit more like a modern tragedy, while the director says there were several reasons there could be only one actor for the role.”
Stahelski explained why he wanted Cavill, “Henry obviously has the physicality, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot if you can’t also carry the empathy of a character that’s lived 500 years, and I needed somebody who could do both.”
He added, “The character’s arc spans hundreds of years and he becomes many different personalities, all of which extend the timeline of his emotional growth. Then during our first meeting, my suspicions were confirmed: Henry was immediately riffing on the idea of the burden of immortality and you could see in his eyes that he can transform himself from being a young, vibrant soul to an old, wise soul. He had this combination I was fascinated by. The other thing you could see was his genuineness – he really loves the property and loves what he believes he can do with it, and when an actor has that level of passion, you’re going to get something unique. And finally – you’ve met him, you know – after 10 minutes you’re just like: ‘He’s cool, I want to hang out with this guy.”
Now, Stahelski provided a new update on the film in an interview with Josh Horowitz. He confirmed Cavill is still attached to the film and they have made significant progress on the scripts and pre-production.
He said, “I think we have some very good elements of power. The trick is when you have the tagline ‘There can only be one!’ You just can’t everybody in the first movie.”
Stahelski then revealed, “We’re looking to do our story– engages a lot of the same characters and stuff like that. But we’ve also brought in elements of all the TV shows, and we’re trying to do a bit of a prequel, a setup for the The Gathering. So we have room to grow the property.”
“If we got our s**t together and we pulled off the feature, like yeah, we have ideas for days about how to make the coolest characters and to make that an epic TV show. I just think that’s a rich, rich material. When you can pick any period in time, any nationality, any culture, any type of person, and make them an immortal that have to duel and deal with the burden of immortality that’s f***ing cool to me,” he concluded.
If you are unfamiliar with The Gathering, it was described by Juan Sanchez Villa Lobos Ramirez in the original Highlander film as “an irresistible pull towards a far away land … to fight for the prize.”
The prize, which was obtained by Connor MacLeod granted him the ability to know what mortals are thinking, all the abilities obtained from other immortals through the quickening, and to become mortal and have children.
What do you make of this update from Stahelski about the Highlander film starring Henry Cavill?