This press release strikes several interesting notes. I remember seeiing Mack Bolan novels in paperback standards, siblings to the adventures of Matt Helm or Shell Scott; Helm inspired Dean Martin movies that had no relation to the books, but you would have thought the Pendleton books had made some kind of screen impact before now. Then there's the writing issue; the release explains how there are SEVEN HUNDRED Bolan novels. Anyway, here's the official word:
Mack Bolan, the global bestselling action-adventure book series created by Don Pendleton which has more than 200 million copies in print, is headed to the screen. Screenwriter-producer Shane Salerno has closed a multi-party rights deal with Pendleton's widow, Linda Pendleton, his six children, Marjorie Pendleton, and a separate deal with Gold Eagle books to adapt the groundbreaking 700-volume series into a film universe.
First published in 1969, the series has been associated with such major stars as Steve McQueen, Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Vin Diesel and several Oscar-winning filmmakers, but no film has ever been made.
Salerno, who plans to tackle the film series after finishing co-writing Avatar 4 with James Cameron, said the goal is to make a "relevant, grounded and gritty, real-world PG-13 action drama film series." Salerno will begin meeting with filmmakers and actors shortly.
While there have been different Bolan incarnations over the past half-century, the current and most popular features Mack Bolan as an elite anti-terrorist operator, answerable only to the White House, who handles missions beyond the capability of the CIA. Salerno said this arena is the "starting point" for the new film series.
Linda Pendleton states: "The Pendleton family is pleased to have Shane Salerno set to bring Don Pendleton's 'Mack Bolan' character to film. We know how mindful Shane is about maintaining the essence of Bolan, a true hero who has touched the minds of readers for decades. We look forward to 'Mack Bolan' being shared to an even larger world audience through film."
The Mack Bolan books exploded upon publication in 1969, with the first batch of novels quickly selling more than 25 million copies and spawning a new paperback genre of men's action-adventure novels. The books became so successful that at one time Gold Eagle was selling an astonishing 24 Bolan and Bolan-related spinoff books each year. Surprisingly, 30% of its readers were women.
By 1980, the demand for Bolan books had reached a level Pendleton could no longer keep up with alone. After writing 38 Bolan adventures in 11 years (1969-1980), he sold the rights to the series to Worldwide Library, stopped writing Bolan books, and began supervising a number of ghost writers in order to release at least two books per month, each of which reached a worldwide audience of 400,000 readers.
Due to Bolan's passionate global fan-base, the publisher insisted that Don Pendleton's name was as valuable as the title itself. An unprecedented deal was struck and Pendleton sold his name to Gold Eagle books, who paid him to 'franchise' his name across the series, as well as all of the spinoffs. As a result, the jackets continued to carry his name as author, resulting in Pendleton being credited today with more than 700 books. Remarkably, in 2014, Gold Eagle still publishes more than 12 Mack Bolan books per year in 40 countries. Additionally, Mack Bolan has expanded to a bestselling series of comic books, audio books and graphic novels. The New York Times reports there are more than 200 million Mack Bolan books in print.
Salerno's complex, multi-party rights deal, which took more than a year to come together, gives him the rights to the first 38 books written by Pendleton, the more than 700 other books written in the 35 years since by Gold Eagle's army of ghost writers, as well as bestselling spinoff series Able Team, Phoenix Force, SuperBolan, and Stony Man. Similar to superhero comic books, the various Mack Bolan book series cross over, with storylines beginning their lives in one series and resolving in another.
The highly successful Mack Bolan: Stony Man series brings all of the characters together in an Avengers-like ensemble. Stony Man is comprised of the most elite fighting commandos in the world, handpicked by Bolan from characters across hundreds of different books, who deploy across the globe to combat threats before they become disasters.
"Don Pendleton created a very special character with Mack Bolan in 1969, which is why there are 200 million copies in print today," Salerno said. "Tens of millions of readers around the world have wanted to see a Mack Bolan film for decades. I'm committed to delivering a series of films with strong characters, real-world storylines, intense drama, and the truly remarkable action sequences for which the books have always been known."
For over 40 years, Mack Bolan has had a long and fascinating Hollywood development history. In 1972, producer Joseph Levine (The Graduate, A Bridge Too Far) first optioned the bestselling series and developed it for Steve McQueen. Levine hired Richard Maibaum, co-writer of thirteen James Bond films including such classics as Goldfinger and Thunderball, to write the screenplay. Maibaum had also co-written Dr. No, Bond's first film appearance, and the plan was for him to introduce the world to Bolan as he had for Bond. A script was completed and books in the series began to carry the tag "soon to be a major motion picture," but the rights lapsed before a film was made.
In early 1980s, at the height of his fame, Burt Reynolds announced that he would produce and direct a series of Mack Bolan films. Clint Eastwood, coming off the techno-thriller Firefox, was envisioned for the role of Bolan. The project jumped studios and the rights expired.
In the late 1980s, following the massive global success of the Rocky and Rambo franchises, Sylvester Stallone announced that he had found his next film hero, Mack Bolan. The film was set to be the first in Stallone's six-year, ten-pic pact with United Artists, with Stallone set to star and write, Joel Silver to produce, and Oscar winner William Friedkin to direct. A two-page Variety ad was taken out by Carolco Pictures for the Cannes film festival, but the picture stalled in development and Stallone moved on to other films.
After numerous attempts to bring Bolan to the screen (including a Vin Diesel version in 2001 right after the release of The Fast and The Furious), the Pendleton family began to decline advances from a number of major producers, directors, and actors. In this instance, however, they were convinced by Salerno's "extraordinarily comprehensive plan" for creating a Mack Bolan film universe, consisting of a series of Bolan films and spinoffs, beginning with a trilogy.
Bolan has been imitated in countless books and comic books over the years, but never equaled. The character has also inspired a number of other celebrated cinematic action heroes. Shane Black has said in interviews that part of the inspiration for the Mel Gibson-Martin Riggs character he created in Lethal Weapon was based on Mack Bolan, which he read as a teenager.
Don Pendleton, a much decorated veteran of World War II, wrote his first book when he was 33 and didn't turn to full-time writing until he was 40. He was stunned by the success of the Mack Bolan books, which captivated millions of readers around the world. He passed away in 1995 at the age of 67.