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The Untold Truth Of Bloodshot

In 2012, Deadline announced that Sony had bought the rights to Valiant's Bloodshot comic series for a live-action film adaptation. At the time, screenwriter Jeff Wadlow was attached to the project, having written a spec script out of his own love for the series. The film was set to follow Angelo Mortalli, a former mob killer who, after entering the FBI's Witness Protection Program, is forced to undergo an experimental procedure involving "nanites," microscopic computers that erase his memory and rebuild his body. 

The project would remain in Hollywood limbo for the next six years before Deadline announced in 2018 that Vin Diesel was attached to star. With a slightly different premise — the story now follows Ray Garrison, Valiant's current Bloodshot — along with director Dave Wilson and a new screenwriter, Eric Heisserer, the latest version of Sony's Bloodshot film is finally well on its way to audiences. We've gone and rounded up the best rumors and spoilers the internet has to offer. Here's every inside detail surrounding the Bloodshot movie.

It's a revenge tale with a twist

According to Geeks WorldWide, the Bloodshot movie is going to be something of a take on the classic revenge tale. Vin Diesel plays Ray Garrison, a Marine who, after he and his wife are murdered, is resurrected as a super-soldier. When Garrison's erased memories return, he sets out to exact revenge on the man responsible for his and his wife's deaths.

While some might point out that the character feels reminiscent of other fan-favorite hard-edged heroes — Wolverine, Deadpool, and Winter Soldier, for instance — Bob Layton, former editor-in-chief of Valiant and co-creator of the character assured Deadline in 2018 that this is a unique project, insisting, "Kevin VanHook and I worked very, very hard to give Bloodshot a voice that was very different from those other characters."

Layton also said Bloodshot's filmmakers have approached the film with the understanding that audiences know comic films. "The filmmakers are embracing the current moviegoing audience's knowledge of comic book storytelling," he added, "and have produced something very fresh and subversive to the genre." 

Dawn of the Valiant Cinematic Universe

At the beginning of 2018, DMG Entertainment — the $6 billion media company responsible for such diverse movies as LooperKick-AssTwilight, and even Iron Man 3took full control of Valiant Entertainment. "Our priority is to build upon Valiant's vast universe of characters from a filmmaker's perspective," said DMG founder Dan Mintz. "I'm excited to immerse Valiant's fans well beyond the stories we tell cinematically — from publishing to gaming to theme parks and beyond." DMG and Valiant originally set up a partnership deal in 2015, which included plans for both film and television.

It isn't surprising, then, that Bloodshot is tabbed as only the beginning of a future franchise for the company. Deadline reported early on that DMG, Valiant, and Sony had made plans for a five-film series that would include Valiant's Bloodshot and Harbinger, as well as a shared crossover film called Harbinger Wars

Bloodshot and Harbinger won't be the only Valiant characters we can expect to see on the big screen. When asked which character he hoped would get its own film, Bob Layton told Deadline, "X-O Manowar! Let's face it, it's 'Conan in a Can!' If that won't translate to film, I don't know what will."

A standalone story

In a 2017 interview with Den of Geek, then-newly-tapped Bloodshot screenwriter Eric Heisserer spoke on the importance of not relying on related films or sequels when approaching a franchise film. Heisserer, who's also been hired to write the Harbinger script, said he wanted to focus on the films as though they were self-contained stories. "My goal was to make a great Harbinger script and a great Bloodshot script, and if audiences love those stories, and we were honored enough to come back and revisit those characters, great."

In his interview with Deadline, Bob Layton expanded on the idea that Bloodshot wouldn't just be another comic franchise film, saying, "They're really focusing on Vin's character and it really seems to be a more character-driven movie, rather than just a lot of big explosions and 9/11-style building demolitions." Explaining how comics films tend to rely too heavily on third act fight scenes, Layton said the key to a good superhero film is to keep the focus on the character, as opposed to making it a "giant roller coaster ride."

Jared Leto was originally set to star

While recent buzz about Bloodshot has been mostly about Vin Diesel's lead role, it wasn't until March 2018 that the xXx actor's name became attached to the project. In August 2017, Syfy Wire announced that Jared Leto had been offered the lead in the film. Former Valiant CEO and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani wouldn't confirm or deny the offer at the time, but he did say, "Jared Leto is a fantastic actor, and that's the most important thing to us... Bloodshot is an emotional story, and we need a great actor, not just someone who looks the part. A great actor will become the part."

At the time of the interview, Leto had just come off 2016's Suicide Squad. His experience with the film made the casting decision a little easier to understand, although Shamdasani acknowledged how surprising the choice would be, comparing the expected internet hate to when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker.

Casting changes

Bloodshot character Dr. Emil Harting went through his own casting swap in mid-2018. According to TheWrap, Michael Sheen, who went on to be seen on Amazon Prime's Good Omens, had originally been cast as the character in May. But with principal photography set to begin in July of that year, Sheen was forced to drop out after only a few months due to scheduling conflicts.

By August, Variety reported that Guy Pearce was in talks to replace Sheen. The studio's decision had to be made quickly, as production on Bloodshot was already well underway. According to Variety, Pearce's character is described as "the genius responsible for the nanotechnology that exists inside the human body to not only repair it, but push it further than normal human limitations." Basically, Pearce will be playing the man who actually turns Ray Garrison into Bloodshot — seemingly a very similar role to his character of Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3.

The movie won't feature the '90s version of Bloodshot

When entertainment news outlets first ran the story that Bloodshot would be headed for the big screen, the film was said to center on Angelo Mortalli, the mob killer version of the character from Valiant's '90s comics. According to Syfy Wire's interview with Dinesh Shamdasani, that Bloodshot is not the one that we'll be seeing on the big screen. Shamdasani explained that the film would instead focus on the version of Bloodshot that Valiant is using in its current run of the series. 

"Yes, yes, this is our same Bloodshot you see in our comics, it's Ray Garrison," Shamdasani said. "When these rumors get out there, there's so much misinformation; the synopsis is wrong, the character's wrong, the credits are wrong, a whole bunch of stuff." He also said that while the character will be familiar to fans of the comic series, the story itself is going to be something entirely new. "Our hope is that we'll build something unique and something special, but the character is maintained, and the tone is maintained."

Will Bloodshot battle multiple villains?

In July 2018, sources told Key Collector Comics (via Bloody Disgusting) that two villains would appear in Bloodshot. The first to be identified was Axe, who made his debut in Harbinger #3. As the character's Fandom page describes, Axe is "an obnoxious self-professed computer wizard with a natural affinity for electronics." His thirst for technology would eventually lead him to kill Bloodshot in order to steal his nanite-enhanced blood. TheWrap reported that Fantastic Four's Toby Kebbell would be playing the character.

At the same time, TheWrap confirmed that Game of Thrones actor Johannes Haukur Johannesson had been added to the cast as a second villain, although who exactly he would be playing was still unknown. According to IMDb, however, Johannesson is listed as portraying a character named Nick Baris. Since it's been established that the film's premise will differ from the comics, it's still hard to say who exactly Nick Baris is in the Bloodshot universe.

A star in the making

Certainly, whether or not Bloodshot finds success will wind up having a huge impact on the Valiant franchise as a whole. The people behind the film seem confident that it will usher in a larger cinematic universe, with Bob Layton telling Deadline, "I do happen to know that Vin, Dave and Dinesh have been plotting a little cameo in Bloodshot that will start to open up the larger Valiant mythology for Sony to play with." 

But the opportunity for a film franchise is just as important to Bloodshot's cast members as it is to its producers. When Variety announced in May 2018 that Michael Sheen, Sam Heughan, and Eiza Gonzalez had joined the film, it was clear that at least one of them was hoping for a multi-movie deal. According to the publication, Sony has been looking for a potential franchise for Gonzalez to star in since her breakout role in 2017's Baby Driver. While Gonzalez's character in Bloodshot is unknown, Layton did tell Deadline it was created specifically for the film, which could indicate a larger role later on.

It's Bloodshot's world

When filming on Bloodshot began in 2018, actor Sam Heughan, cast to play Corporal Harlan "So Long" Shifflet, spoke with Screen Rant about the film and his role in it. While he wouldn't give too much away regarding his character or the premise, he did mention that he'd be "off to South Africa to start shooting next month." According to Bob Layton, filming in another country has helped to set the film apart from other onscreen superhero franchises. Of shooting in South Africa and Cape Town, Layton told Deadline, "This is a different universe and it had a different feel being there... It's not like shooting in Hollywood."

It isn't just in South Africa where the Bloodshot universe could begin to unfold, though. In May 2019, Vin Diesel posted a photo to his Instagram that hinted at reshoots taking place in the Dominican Republic. "Pinewood DR," he wrote. "Where we filmed xXx3. And where we may film reshoots for Bloodshot. Nostalgia."

A surprising first look

For fans familiar with the Bloodshot comic series, Ray Garrison's look is pretty unmistakable — pale skin, black hair, red eyes. He also has a penchant for running around without a shirt on. So when Vin Diesel posted the first image from the film to his Instagram account in January 2019, it wasn't exactly what fans were expecting.

The image, which shows a pretty regular-looking Diesel in a camouflage jacket and aviator shades, without any hair, is a far cry from the Bloodshot of the comics. Diesel captioned the pic, "Ray Garrison is a central character in the Valiant Comic Universe... And for me personally, one of the must complex characters I have been fortunate enough to play. Hope to make you proud... #BLOODSHOT"

What will Bloodshot be rated?

When TheWrap first reported that Vin Diesel was in talks to star in Bloodshot in January 2018, the film had been described as an "R-rated take on the comic adaptation that will be tonally and aesthetically influenced by high-concept, sci-fi blockbusters of the late '80s including Robocop, Terminator, and Total Recall." That R rating seemed to mean that Bloodshot would be following in the footsteps of other recent, non-traditional comic films like Deadpool and Logan

More recently, however, it's looked as though Bloodshot could potentially be going for a PG-13 rating. As noted by DiscussingFilm, which shared the film's first full synopsis in March 2019, a PG-13 rating would allow Sony to reach a wider audience, as well as a "consistent wider market" for the studio's planned Valiant Cinematic Universe. Since the character is known for its "hard R" persona, the decision to give the movie a more family-friendly edge may wind up backfiring for Sony.

A new era in comic book movies?

While the audience's reaction to the final cut of Bloodshot is still completely unknown, those involved with the film seem more than confident it will be unlike anything we've seen from the other big comics franchises. Writer Eric Heisserer told Den of Geek that his goal with both Bloodshot and Harbinger was to make films that would exist beyond just "comic book movies." As he put it, "I latched on to the idea of creating sort of the David Bowie of comic book films that felt off-kilter, that felt fascinating and refreshing in its own right."

In May 2019, Vin Diesel posted a video to his Instagram in which he talked about the first cut of the film, saying he understood why he'd been getting calls from other directors who'd been impressed with it. Diesel praised the film's director, Dave Wilson, for what he was able to do with the character onscreen, adding, "It's like no other superhero movie I've ever seen before."

Bloodshot, from page to screen and back again

Valiant is capitalizing on the character's big screen debut with a rebooted comic series, which debuted September 2019. According to Deadline, the series will work along with the film to build on the company's plans for a larger franchise. 

Tim Seely, the series' writer and the creator of comics like Revival and Hack/Slash, says he doesn't plan to "reinvent the wheel" with the new Bloodshot. Instead, Seely looks to bring the story back to basics, but in a way that stays true to the comic platform. "What I need to do is tell a big, crazy story that can only be done in comics," he said. "I need it to be powerful and emotional and relevant in a way only comics can do." 

The new Bloodshot features artwork by Brett Booth, whose previous work includes Teen Titans and Batman Beyond.

Bloodshot is bigger than you might expect

With a resume that spans both the science fiction and action realm, the Diesel brand will surely be responsible for getting at least a few moviegoers into Bloodshot's seats. But while the actor may bring in a substantial theater draw, chances are the bulk of Bloodshot's audience will be fans of the original comics series.

Valiant has only been in business since 1988, but in its first few years, it looked like it was well on its way to giving both Marvel and DC a run for their money. By 1992, the company held 22% of the comics market share, and it's grown to encompass a library of over 2000 characters. In spite of a few hurdles over the years (Acclaim bought the company in 1994, then declared bankruptcy a decade later), Valiant continues to create original content on its own terms.

Valiant CEO Warren Simons told Inverse in 2017 that what sets the company apart from Marvel and DC is its accessibility. "We want to tell stories that have universal themes," he said. "I want to hand Valiant to someone who does not read comics and have them read it and understand it." Its stories are also very much rooted in reality. "We're the world outside your window if it's been tilted about five degrees," Simon explained. "We don't have gods. We don't have someone descending with capes ruling over people."

Bloodshot the movie held sway over the comic

Valiant's first iteration of Bloodshot came in 1992, with Eternal Warrior and Rai. The following year, Bloodshot the comic made its debut, running from 1993-1996 before picking up again in 1997 for another year. By 2000, Valiant went dark in the wake of Acclaim's bankruptcy, and it would be another two years before the company would relaunch its most famous character. The Bloodshot that fans are familiar with today — the one created by Duane Swierczynski, Manuel Garcia, and Arturo Lozzi, and which Vin Diesel's upcoming movie character is based on — is something entirely new, sort of.

Turns out, the 2012 comic Bloodshot was created with the film in mind. Dinesh Shamdasani told The Beat in October 2019 that they approached the comic from a standpoint of how it would eventually play out onscreen. "We started developing Bloodshot [the movie] in 2010, before publishing actually," he said, "so the Bloodshot comic books were built with the idea of what we wanted to do on the film."

Ray Garrison vs. Angelo Mortalli

When the Bloodshot movie was announced, the synopsis being thrown around by various news outlets centered on Angelo Mortalli, a mob hitman who undergoes a top secret government operation after he's placed into witness protection. Mortalli is the oldest version of the character, dating back to Bloodshot's first appearance in the early '90s. By 2017, however, Syfy Wire had cleared things up, and it was confirmed that this Bloodshot would be fashioned after the present day Ray Garrison, a soldier-turned-government guinea pig.

It may seem like a cut and dry situation: Bloodshot's filmmakers went with one version of the comics character over another, and for all intents and purposes, that's what it looks like happened. But there's more to the Angelo Mortalli and Ray Garrison characters than that. In the 2012 Bloodshot relaunch, it's made clear that both men exist as separate personalities created by Project Rising Spirit, the government program responsible for Bloodshot's existence. The nanites coursing through Bloodshot's system that make him immune from harm are also being used to create false memories. Both Angelo Mortalli and Ray Garrison exist, but only as temporary implanted personalities. While movie Bloodshot may choose to believe Ray Garrison is his real identity, there's no guarantee that he is. 

It's taken a decade to get Bloodshot onto the big screen

When Bloodshot was first in development, Angelo Mortalli was actually looked at to carry the story, but according to Dinesh Shamdasani, the filmmakers had always wanted to take the movie in a different direction. He told The Beat, "We hadn't launched publishing yet, so very much at that point, it was Angelo Mortalli, the Mafia aspect, and we were pushing to make it something else." There was another big thing that was only just beginning to happen at the time Bloodshot first went into development: The MCU. "Marvel Studios hadn't launched in the way they have now where they hadn't set a tone that everyone was following," Shamdasani explained. And so for Bloodshot, figuring out the film's overall tone was a big deal.

It took nearly a decade. Shamdasani wanted to make a film in the same vein as 1980s and '90s sci-fi action movies — stuff like Total Recall, The Terminator, and RoboCop. It was important for him and others involved in Bloodshot's development that the film feel nothing like a Marvel or DC movie. Valiant had worked hard to set itself apart from the two companies competing with its print media, and it was looking to extend that difference onto the big screen. 

The anti-comic book movie

Setting Bloodshot apart from other comics movies is of huge importance to its filmmakers, both in terms of story and tone. That the stories taking place within the pages of Valiant comics are rooted in reality has greatly impacted the way in which the Bloodshot movie's creators have approached its actual filmmaking. It goes back to Bloodshot's science roots. Director Dave Wilson told Inverse in 2019 that he consulted with the California NanoSystems Institute team at UCLA prior to shooting, in order to get a better handle on the technology that's being depicted in the film. "We're a few years out from doing what we do [in the movie], the concept of having microscopic, robotic organisms in your bodies that can deliver medicine," he said. "That is not far away. We use that as a base and take a giant leap. But even the labs and how we built them, I wanted the Tesla factory version and not Tony Stark's lab of holograms."

This non-comics philosophy extends to Bloodshot's visual style as well. Dinesh Shamdasani told Inverse that while Marvel and DC attempt to recreate "commercial comic books" on the screen, the inspiration for those working to bring Bloodshot to life is far grittier.

That Harbinger crossover may never happen

Valiant hasn't just set itself apart from Marvel and DC in terms of its more realistic storylines. According to Dinesh Shamdasani, it's a comics company that was actually built to exist within a shared universe. Essentially, Valiant has approached every single one of its individual characters as though they're all part of the same larger story. Bloodshot was supposed to be the first film in Valiant's shared cinematic universe, with Harbinger coming in as its second. That may not be the case now.

The Hollywood Reporter announced in September 2019 that Paramount had picked up the rights to the planned Harbinger movie, taking it away from Sony and quite possibly the entire VCU. For Shamdasani, the Paramount deal was a huge blow. "We've heard it's at Paramount, and I think that it pretty much makes it unlikely that there will be a shared universe, but there's plenty of characters in the Bloodshot mythology," he told The Beat. "If we're lucky enough to get to do this again..."

Don't read too much into that first Bloodshot trailer

When Sony released the first trailer for Bloodshot in October, many took issue. Their biggest gripes? Giving away the film in two and half minutes, along with the fact that even those with only a passing familiarity of the comic could tell that Vin Diesel's version of the government-run assassin looks a little... off. 

Dave Wilson has made it clear that he's all for the cut Sony released, specifically because it didn't rely on basic action scenes. "There was a very dangerous trailer, which would be simplistic and lean into all the action tropes that come with it being a Vin Diesel film," he told The Beat. "They did not go down that road, which is wonderful." And rest assured, the trailer has not given everything away. Hunter Gorinson, VP of Brand and Content Strategy for Bloodshot's production company, Hivemind, told Nerdist that Bloodshot's most memorable scene will, in fact, make it to the film. "The first panel [of Rai #0] — and in Valiant lore it's a very famous page — is Bloodshot getting his injector chest thing where it's shown that's the reason he has a spot," he explained. "That's in the movie."

So there's a good chance we'll be seeing Bloodshot in all his white and red glory come February 2020. If we're to believe Bloodshot's filmmakers, this trailer was cut to give only part of the story away, but there's plenty more to explore.