The ''Transformers'' producer talks about his next project with '80s action figures: bringing G.I. Joe to the silver screen

By Adam B. Vary
Updated March 08, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Jeffrey Mayer/

First Optimus Prime — now Snake Eyes and Duke?

Over the weekend, online moviesite reported that Mark Wahlberg might star in Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura’s planned feature film version of G.I. Joe, i.e. the popular American military toys and 1980s comic and animated TV series. Given that Joe has meant so much to so many young boys (and girls!) since the 1960s, we thought checking in with the former Warner Bros. Studios production head for a complete update on the project was in order.

How far along are you on G.I. Joe?
We?re going to get a script in the next four weeks. Three weeks. Maybe two. But I don?t know exactly. Obviously Transformers has ”proven” — in quotes — that those ’80s properties have really large audiences. And Joe is a giant not only to an ’80s audience, which was really for the comic book and for the animated series, but it also obviously predates that for a lot of people. There are many generations that have a different sensibility to what it is. I grew up with G.I. Joes that were Korean War, you know?

Are you looking at from the 1980s perspective?
I would say it?s a little of both. We’re merging the two aesthetics. A lot of characters from the 1980s are going to be familiar because prior to that there weren’t a lot of characters. There was really mostly Duke. So what we?ve done is take some of the aesthetic of the early Joe and combine it with the ’80s Joe. So that way everybody who loves Joe has something from their time period that they’ll recognize, I hope. And we’re trying to make it feel very contemporary.

Will Cobra Command be part of the story?
I think that most of the major characters from the show will be part of the story. We’re going to get into a lot of the origin discussions of a lot of the characters. So you may see them at some point in the movie like you remember them, and earlier in the movie you may meet them before some of the transformations have occurred.

First in a franchise?
Yeah, I’m always leery of that, because every time you say that you’re sticking your chin out. We’re trying to make one really fun movie here, and if it succeeds, then there will be more to come. But we’re really focused on the first movie and not looking at all at what’s coming down the road. Joe has a lot of complexity to it. There’s a lot of characters. People love Snake Eyes, people love Cobra, people love Duke, and then there’s some people who loved Heavy Duty, and there?s some who loved Road Block, some people loved Scarlett, some loved the Baroness. You can’t give everything, because you don’t have enough time. We’d have a four-hour movie. So our first objective is to find the right tone to make it cool for today’s audience, so even if you’re not an ’80s [Joe] fan it totally feels like it’s a movie for you.

How’s casting going? Mark Wahlberg’s name was bandied about.
We’re not there yet. In my opinion, Mark’s a great Duke. But it’s not anything we’re casting yet. We have to get a script that Paramount’s ready to spend some money to make. I’m happy to say out loud that Mark would be a great Duke, but we have not been in any kind of conversation with him or with Paramount.