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Neil Burger starting from scratch with Uncharted movie adaptation

Just a few months ago, fans of Uncharted were scratching their heads wondering how Mark Wahlberg, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci were going to bring the video game franchise to the big screen. From a wise-cracking treasure hunter to a globetrotting art merchant with a family that rubs elbows with the most powerful people on the planet, the character seemed to be moving further and further away from his origins.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it might have become the best video game adaptation ever to grace the screen—we’ll never know. But now that Russell has gone walkies, the task of bringing the PS3 exclusive game to the big screen falls to Neil Burger (The Illusionist, Limitless), and in an interview with CraveOnline, Burger has confirmed that he won’t be using any of Russell’s work, and will go back to the game for inspiration.

“I haven’t seen [Russell’s] screenplay on it. Mainly we’re beginning from scratch and going back to the videogame. Because there’s a lot of cool stuff, actually, from the videogame, if you know it…” Burger said.

Where Russell saw the Uncharted universe as an epic one with a global scope (which is a good part of the reason that he and Sony split once the proposed budget began to take shape), Burger seems to be sticking closer to the game origins of the character, which can justifiably be compared to a modern day Indiana Jones—at least to a degree, according to Burger.

“I think Indiana Jones is, you know, fantastic. The grandfather of all those movies. But I think Indiana Jones is nostalgic. It takes place in the 1930s, and the later ones are a little bit later, and it kind of plays on that nostalgia. Whereas Uncharted is very much up to the minute, of the moment. It’s very ‘now’ and contemporary and it has this sort of rough and very intense feel that a movie like The Bourne Identity has. It’s really up to date in its own way. The Bourne Identity isn’t your father’s Cold War movie and this is a very different kind of treasure hunt movie. It’s very real and it has kind of an insane, wild feeling that comes out of the character; Nate being this con man and a bit of a hustler, living by his wits, ballsy and capable of anything.”

As for more specifics on things like casting, it is still very early in the process for Burger, who only took the job a few weeks ago. Plus, the exit of Russell proved that anything can happen, and there is a long way to go between now and whenever the film is ready to go. In fact it would be silly to begin talking casting before a script—or even a definite direction for the film–is set. But…

With Wahlberg off the film, the role of Nathan Drake remains vacant, and once again the internet campaigns for various actors can begin. And of all the actors being considered (by fans, not necessarily the studio), Nathan Fillion had the most vocal support, and Burger is aware of that.

“I’ve seen a little bit of that, yes.” Burger told CraveOnline when asked about the internet campaign supporting Fillion. “That was brought to my attention. So, you know, I think he’s a good actor. I think there’s a lot of really good actors who don’t even look like [Nathan Drake] who could play it! Where we are right now is that we’re literally starting from scratch on the screenplay, and I think that once we finish it, then we’ll go to actors and see who’s available and who’s right for the parts. Whenever that happens.”

The film adaptation of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune still has a long way to go, but it appears that Burger has a solid grasp of the property. With the departure of Russell, the film could easily have derailed, or at least been seriously delayed, but Sony pushed ahead and found a new helmer quickly, confirming its support of the project.

“It’s really one of the most cinematic videogames, and one that has really developed characters. So, you know, there’s a lot of cool, really intense things that, if they work for the film’s story, I want to use them.”