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The Untold Truth Of The Uncharted Movie

For many years, a movie adaptation of the video game franchise "Uncharted" has been hovering over the horizon, with constant uncertainty over whether or not it would become a reality. After all that waiting, though, the project is a reality, thanks to director Ruben Fleischer alongside leading performances from Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. The project chronicles the origin story of "Uncharted" protagonist Nathan Drake while promising to deliver lots of puzzles, fight scenes, treasure hunting, and other hallmarks of the original video game series. The rampant marketing for "Uncharted" has been impossible to miss, but what may have missed the eye of even die-hard fans of this franchise is the untold truth of the "Uncharted" movie.

The project's background is largely informed by the lengthy production issues "Uncharted" encountered in its trip to the big screen as the feature went through several release dates and directors before arriving in its final form. The story of this motion picture also reflects how COVID-19 upended the film industry in 2020, as well as what made this blockbuster register as something special for leading men Holland and Wahlberg. You don't need to travel to the globe to uncover the glorious untold truth of "Uncharted," you can just read ahead.

David O. Russell's original vision for Uncharted

When "Uncharted" was first looking to get off the ground, Sony decided to go whole-hog on this production. They wouldn't just be hiring anyone to helm this project, they opted to go after David O. Russell. This decision came in 2010, just as Russell was preparing to debut his eventual best picture nominee and box office hit "The Fighter." Though Russell was known for doing small-scale dramas rather than blockbusters, his comments about the project indicate that he had some passion for the film.

In December 2010, Russell revealed to the Los Angeles Times that what excited him about doing the movie were the family dynamics Nathan Drake deals with. He even said that he saw the film as an extension of themes he'd explored in "The Fighter." Russell was equally intrigued about the idea of taking those familiar down-to-Earth elements and then translating them into a massive-scale adventure film worthy of the "Uncharted" name. 

As noted by the Los Angeles Times, Russell's version of the film eventually got far enough to cast Mark Wahlberg as Nathan Drake. However, Deadline reported that the filmmaker left the movie in favor of pursuing other dramas, such as "Silver Linings Playbook," ending the filmmaker's brief foray into the world of blockbuster directing. As for "Uncharted," Russell would be the first director to depart this project, but as the years that followed would show, he would not be the last.

Neil Burger and his ideas for an Uncharted movie

With David O. Russell out of the picture, it was time for a new filmmaker to take the reins of "Uncharted." This is where director Neil Burger entered. The eventual filmmaker behind the original "Divergent" was fresh off his 2011 box office smash "Limitless" when he scored the opportunity to direct "Uncharted." Though not as much of an award season darling as David O. Russell, Burger was still bringing plenty of enthusiasm to the table in his creative vision for "Uncharted."

While speaking with We Got This Covered in July 2011, Burger noted that his version of "Uncharted" would start from scratch instead of taking over the project David O. Russell had previously signed on to execute. That choice also left Wahlberg's casting as the lead up in the air, although his relationship to the project would evolve over time. Burger expressed a desire to deliver something that would live up to fan expectations by being faithful to the games while also creating something character-driven enough to function as an enjoyable standalone feature. 

These lofty ambitions made Burger sound like an intriguing choice for "Uncharted," but he would eventually take a cue from Russell and vacate this gig, as noted by Polygon. It would then be years before another filmmaker signed on to direct this video game adaptation.

The initial June 2016 release date of Uncharted

After years of stopping and starting, "Uncharted" appeared to be finally heading for reality in 2014. As part of a slew of major release date announcements, Sony announced that "Uncharted" would be setting sail on June 10, 2016, per Deadline. That mid-June slot was one Sony just had a lot of box office success through the then-recent hit "22 Jump Street," while it would also allow "Uncharted" to take advantage of Father's Day weekend. Above all else, this news suggested that this movie, which was then set to be directed by Seth Gordon, was getting closer and closer to becoming something tangible.

However, roughly a year later, complications arose once again when Gordon opted to pursue other movies like "Baywatch." With no director less than a year before its June 2016 debut, it was only a matter of time before "Uncharted" got postponed. That's just what happened in August 2015, when "Uncharted" was then delayed to a June 30, 2017 date. The film's first official release date would end up being far from its last, as Sony would continue to give "Uncharted" an assortment of release dates throughout 2020, 2021, and 2022

In the context of its entire development period, that initial June 2016 bow in the heart of summer blockbuster season now suggests the ambitions Sony had for "Uncharted." However, its failure to meet release date projections also showed how easily plans for "Uncharted" could go awry.

Chris Pratt almost played Nathan Drake

At the end of 2014, Chris Pratt finally arrived as a movie star. After years of being known for his work on the sitcom "Parks and Recreation" and supporting roles in film, Pratt proved he had the chops to headline a blockbuster with "Guardians of the Galaxy." Throw in his voice work as the protagonist of the blockbuster hit "The LEGO Movie," alongside his then-impending work as the lead of "Jurassic World," and Pratt's star was rising significantly.

Given his notoriety, it's no surprise Sony approached Pratt to headline its "Uncharted" movie. This news came from a piece in The Hollywood Reporter about Mark Boal coming aboard to pen a new draft of the "Uncharted" screenplay. However, this was reported alongside further information revealing that Pratt had already passed on the part. No information was given on why Pratt was a no-go for "Uncharted," though it is interesting to note that Pratt's name would also be connected to another adventurer, Indiana Jones, in 2015, as noted by Deadline

Something about Pratt's movie star image seemed to conjure up images of loveable scoundrels who go exploring for ancient artifacts. Though he may evoke that persona to studio executives, Pratt's dismissal of the opportunity to headline "Uncharted" makes it clear such roles aren't a priority for this actor. Turning down the role of Nathan Drake did eventually allow another Marvel Cinematic Universe staple, Tom Holland, to step into the part instead.

The sudden arrival of screenwriter Joe Carnahan

With the original June 2016 date coming and going, the "Uncharted" movie was at a standstill. Several screenwriters had already come and gone from the project, each trying their best to crack what it would take to translate this video game into an appealing movie. In 2016, the biggest name since David O. Russell to take a swing at "Uncharted" hopped onto the blockbuster in the form of Joe Carnahan, as revealed by Variety. While he was working on fellow Sony blockbuster "Bad Boys 3," he would also be penning a screenplay for a new "Uncharted" movie.

Carnahan was not someone people immediately associated with high-budget tentpoles projects, but he knew his way around action cinema. His 2006 directorial effort "Smokin' Aces" became a cult hit and his grim survival drama "The Grey" was a sleeper hit in 2011. While none of his films were exactly like the "Uncharted" video games, they did suggest he could produce an exciting action movie using the iconography of the franchise. Plus, it was just a hopeful sign that someone of note was working on "Uncharted" as it languished in development hell. 

Though ComicBook reports that he got a draft of the script completed by the start of 2017, Carnahan would end up going uncredited on "Uncharted." Today it's unclear what, if any, of his contributions to the screenplay made it to the final cut of this blockbuster.

The impact of casting Tom Holland as Nathan Drake

In May 2017, the "Uncharted" movie took a massive step towards becoming a reality when Deadline reported that Tom Holland had been hired to take on the role. This was a significant development for a multitude of reasons. For one thing, Holland's age, only 21 years old when cast, served as a reveal that this project would be following a significantly younger Nathan Drake than the one from the "Uncharted" video games or earlier incarnations of this adaptation. Fans hoping for someone closer to Nathan Fillion's age to play this character would now have to get used to the idea of an origin story movie.

Meanwhile, this casting also solidified how much confidence Sony had in Holland as a performer. This Nathan Drake casting news came just two months before "Spider-Man: Homecoming" hit theaters and became one of the most successful Sony titles ever. Even before those box office accomplishments, though, Sony brass was keen on maintaining a long-term relationship with Holland by handing him the opportunity to headline another franchise for the studio. 

In retrospect, another notable factor of this casting announcement is how it demonstrates just how long Holland has been attached to play Nathan Drake. It would be nearly five years after this initial casting announcement before "Uncharted" hit movie theaters.

Shawn Levy's tenure as director

In October 2016, "Uncharted" got another jolt of life when Deadline helped announce that Shawn Levy had stepped up to the plate to serve as the film's director. Levy may not be a household name, but his track record for delivering crowd-pleasing box office hits is remarkable thanks to titles like "Night at the Museum," "Real Steel," and "Free Guy." Given the films he had directed, it's no surprise Sony would be interested in having Levy helm an "Uncharted" movie.

Shortly after this announcement, Levy talked to Collider about his long-time love for the "Uncharted" video games as well as the work he had put in with Joe Carnahan to polish up the film's screenplay. In this same interview, Levy also divulged that "Uncharted" would begin filming in 2017. Though all these comments sounded promising to fans of the property, the potential 2017 start date came and went. Eventually, disaster struck "Uncharted" when the film lost its director yet again, with Levy departing in December 2018, a little over two years after initially signing on to the film. Scheduling conflicts with other projects caused Levy to pump the brakes on his involvement in this feature, leaving "Uncharted" rudderless again. Though he stuck around for years on this blockbuster, Shawn Levy was just never meant to be the director of "Uncharted."

Uncharted went through three directors in 12 months

If you thought you had a rough 2019, be grateful you weren't working on "Uncharted." Over 12 months, from January 2019 to January 2020, three separate filmmakers were attached to direct this project, with this constant turnover resulting in all kinds of turmoil for the production. This all began when Shawn Levy walked away from the venture in 2018, resulting in "10 Cloverfield Lane" helmer Dan Trachtenberg stepping in as director, per Variety. He stayed on board the feature for eight months until Deadline reported that he abruptly left the video game adaptation for unspecified reasons.

Now needing a new filmmaker, The Hollywood Reporter notes that the studio recruited Travis Knight to serve as director. Fresh off his work on "Bumblebee," Knight had proven his chops with live-action blockbuster storytelling. This hiring seemed like good news for "Uncharted," now aiming for a December 2020 debut. However, further problems emerged three months later when Knight stepped down from the gig. The year had begun and ended with directorial troubles for "Uncharted," and it wouldn't be until January 2020 that a replacement would be found. 

Variety revealed that such a replacement was found in Ruben Fleischer, who had experience working on high-profile Sony projects through the original "Venom" and the two "Zombieland" movies. Arriving two months before the start date for principal photography, Fleisher would end up being the credited director on "Uncharted," putting an end to the film's long hunt for someone to fill that role.

Uncharted shut down on the first day of filming

It's March 2020, and this is it. The "Uncharted" movie is about to finally begin filming. It's been years in the making, with lots and lots of twists and turns, directors that went nowhere, and bungled release dates. But now, this video game adaptation was finally about to become a reality, with Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg set for the lead roles. However, just like everything else involved with the production of "Uncharted," things were about to get complicated for this blockbuster.

As would become the case for many projects underway in early 2020, Variety revealed that Sony had halted production on "Uncharted" in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even worse, Digital Spy reports that Tom Holland said, during an Instagram live stream, that "We showed up for our first day of shooting and they shut us down." It was a startling development reflective of how widespread the health crisis had become. This was no longer just a disease affecting one country, but the globe, as well as massive feature films like "Uncharted."

The uncertain impact of COVID-19 on "Uncharted" was reflected in the fact that no date was set for when the film would resume filming. Eventually, "Uncharted" would manage to get rolling before cameras again in July, putting the persistently plagued project a few steps closer to becoming a reality.

Tom Holland's opinion on what separates Uncharted from other video game movies

The track record for video game movies isn't just erratic, it's downright tragic. There just haven't been many classic entries in this domain, with even the better-received entries in this subgenre often coming with asterisks conscious of glaring flaws. When it comes to "Uncharted," even the most casual moviegoer may be understandably inquiring what makes this particular adaptation different from other motion pictures that tried to translate video games into big movies.

In a video interview with IGN, Tom Holland explained that he was well-aware of the reputation video game movies had cultivated over the years and didn't disagree with this assessment. However, the critical detail that Holland felt separated "Uncharted" from other video game movies was that this was not intended to be a direct adaptation of storylines seen in familiar games. Instead, "Uncharted" was going the prequel route, delivering totally fresh storylines detailing the early exploring days of Nathan Drake. By covering fresh material like this, Holland had high hopes that "Uncharted" could prove to be an exception to the dismal track record of video game movies, which often got caught up rehashing the familiar.

How Ruben Fleischer came to direct Uncharted

It took a long time for "Uncharted" to find itself a director, but it finally settled on a filmmaker in the form of Ruben Fleischer. Initially most well-known for directing a trio of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" episodes and two "Between Two Ferns" shorts, Fleischer hit the big time with his feature-length directorial effort "Zombieland." Though follow-up features like "Gangster Squad" were less successful, Fleischer transitioned to the world of blockbuster filmmaking with the massive hit "Venom." That superhero movie marked one of four movies he helmed for Sony before "Uncharted," establishing him a reliable figure the studio could trust this beleaguered video game adaptation to.

While talking to Total Film (via GamesRadar), Fleischer was open that jumping aboard "Uncharted" just two months before its initial start date of March 2020 was a quick turnaround. He noted that he was fresh off helming "Zombieland: Double Tap," and since he was "really in the rhythm of making movies," he opted to take on a new challenge like a globe-trotting adventure film. Plus, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic delaying filming for months, Fleisher would end up getting a bit more time than expected to prepare his vision for "Uncharted." Though he was a last-minute addition to the feature, Fleischer, unlike so many other filmmakers before him, stuck around on "Uncharted" to become its final credited director.

What got Mark Wahlberg onboard with Uncharted

Once upon a time, Mark Wahlberg was set to headline a live-action "Uncharted" movie in the role of Nathan Drake, as was once reported by Kotaku. This would've been not only Wahlberg's second video game movie adaptation, following "Max Payne," but also a reunion with the director of his 2010 drama, "The Fighter," David O. Russell. However, once Russell left the production, Wahlberg also vacated the part, leaving the role of Drake uncast for many years. 

Almost an entire decade later, Variety revealed that Wahlberg had signed on to return to the "Uncharted" movie. However, this time he'd be playing Drake's mentor, Victor "Sully" Sullivan, rather than the protagonist. It was an unusual move, and the shift between what role Wahlberg would inhabit spoke to just how long "Uncharted" had been in development. Though production had been far from easy for this film, Wahlberg was very open about his confidence in "Uncharted" turning out to be something special.

"It's by far tenfold better than all the other versions of the movie that they were going to make at one point or another, which is why I was willing to come back and jump into that part," Wahlberg explained to TheWrap. "Many different filmmakers and versions of the script, and they just knocked it out of the park. When I read it, I was like, 'oh wow.'" Impressing Wahlberg led to "Uncharted," bringing back one of the film's earliest casting choices into the fold.