Science of Sleeper: Brubaker talks "Sleeper" film

Earlier this week it was announced that Wildstorm's "Sleeper," created by the award-winning "Criminal" team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, has been optioned for a motion picture adaptation by Sam Raimi's Star Road Entertainment, with the "Spider-Man" director set to helm and Tom Cruise tentatively attached to play the lead. With that news in mind, CBR caught up with Brubaker to talk about the upcoming film and what details he can share about its production at this early stage.

"Sleeper" tells the tale of one Holden Carver, an individual impervious to physical pain, who goes undercover in the organization of a criminal mastermind called Tao. But for security reasons, Holden's handler John Lynch (one-time Gen-13 mentor) is the only person who knows Holden is actually on the side of the angels, and when an attempt on Lynch's life puts him into a coma, Holden Carver is on his own out in the cold.

Characters from "WildC.A.T.S." play a pivotal role in the story, but even though both "WildC.A.T.S." and "Gen-13" have in the past been optioned at other film studios, Brubaker does not believe that poses much of a hurdle for the burgeoning "Sleeper" production. "I think it's as simple as when they buy a story but some of the characters have been optioned by another studio, they can't call Parker by his real name, so he becomes Porter or Walker instead," Brubaker told CBR News.

Brubaker was also quick to correct the common misconception amongst the Hollywood press that "Sleeper" is a "WildC.A.T.S." spinoff. 'Sleeper' isn't a spin-off of 'WildCATS.' 'Sleeper' as a property came together just after I turned in the first 'Point Blank' script, and Scott and Jim asked me to come up with a monthly idea. So I came up with 'Sleeper,' and then Scott suggested I seed it into the end of 'Point Blank,' which seemed like a good idea.

So I revised Point Blank so the secret was about Holden Carver, but 'Sleeper' was already being worked on, and Sean had designed the characters. That's why every issue of 'Sleeper' says 'Created by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.' It's just that, because of its ties to the overall WS universe, a few characters in 'Sleeper' also were in other WS books before 'Sleeper.' But all but four characters were created by me and Sean just for 'Sleeper.'

Brubaker is thrilled that Tom Cruise is circling the "Sleeper" film project. "Tom Cruise is not just one of the biggest stars in the world, he's also a great actor who tends to pick really interesting and exciting projects to star in," Brubaker said. "And look at him in 'Collateral' and tell me he couldn't play Holden. I was actually thinking of him in 'Collateral' a bit when I wrote ['Criminal: Lawless.'] That intensity."

Brubaker said that while he was in high school, his brother looked almost exactly like Tom Cruise in "Risky Business." "It was uncanny, and I'm not kidding," Brubaker remarked. "It drove me crazy because the girls just fell over him when he put on those Raybans. Now I win, though, because Tom Cruise wants to star in my movie."

Who are the writer's other casting choices? "Cate Blanchett would be my pick for Miss Misery, I think, because she reminds me in all the right ways of Veronica Lake," Brubaker said. "And she's one of the best actresses in the world, and she's never played a part like this."

Brubaker hasn't given the casting for the other roles that much thought, and realizes that ultimately these are decisions that aren't up to him. Indeed, Brubaker does not yet know what the extent of his involvement with the "Sleeper" film is going to be. "I have a relationship with the guys in Raimi's office on this project, so I'm hopeful I'll be involved on some level, but it's not up to me," Brubaker said. The writer has heard rumblings that a few big name screenwriters are interested in penning the adaptation. "I have no illusions it'll be me, even though I am doing screenwriting now, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to write it." That said, Brubaker would love to consult on the film and be kept in the writing loop.

This is not the first time Hollywood has courted Brubaker's hit series. "This is the fifth time, I think, that I've heard of serious action on 'Sleeper' at this point," Brubaker revealed. The seeds of the current production were sown late last year when Star Road Entertainment producer Russell Hollander told Brubaker he was trying to set the film up at Sony. "That deal didn't work out for a few business reasons, but Russell and [Raimi's partner] Josh Donen didn't give up." Russell put "Sleeper" in Cruise's hands, and the movie star was a fast fan. "I even heard that Tom Cruise called them the other day to push it along, because he's so excited about it."

Published under DC Comics' Wildstorm imprint, the film rights for "Sleeper" are already owned by parent company Time Warner, so Warner Bros. Pictures was the logical place to develop the project. "From what I understand, they're just working on the deal at Warners with those guys now, and it's all moving nicely."

Rumor has it that WB is looking to turn "Sleeper" into a film franchise. If so, where does Brubaker think the first installment should leave off? "Honestly, I haven't even thought about it," Brubaker said. "I'd love a franchise, of course, but wow, let's just get the first one made and I'll be happy."

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