Is ‘Death Note’ the next movie to tap an auteur director?

Auteur directors aren't stuck in low-budget land anymore. 


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Published Jul 10, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 11:45 pm CDT

Hollywood insider news site Tracking Board is reporting that Gus Van Sant has been hired to direct the live-action Hollywood remake of Death Note.

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Yes, that’s the same Gus Van Sant who directed Milk and Good Will Hunting. Working on an adaptation of a manga series (and anime show, and live-action Japanese movie, and video game…) about a teenage boy with a magic notebook that can be used to kill people.

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If we can quickly adjourn to Twitter for a suitable reaction… Ah, yes. There we go:

Gus Van Sant directing the Death Note adaptatation….WTF

— Carlos Adama (@Carlos_Adama) July 10, 2014


We won’t label this Van Sant/Death Note partnership as a certainty until it’s been confirmed, but Tracker Board already has plenty of fans convinced. 

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Van Sant may sound like a surprising choice for Death Note, but with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Iron Man 3 director Shane Black attached to the project last year, the idea of giving this movie a “serious” director seems very plausible. Five years ago, that Tracking Board report would’ve been dismissed as mere rumor. But thanks to the recent habit of Hollywood adaptations hiring auteur directors, Van Sant is as reasonable a choice as any. 

(500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb was tapped for Spider-Man. Rian Johnson, creator of Looper and Brick, was hired to write and direct one of the new Star Wars movies. James Gunn, Kenneth Branagh, and (formerly) Edgar Wright all joined the ever-growing stable of Marvel Studios filmmakers. None of these directors are exactly Michael Bay, but they’re part of a growing trend where studios hire well-respected filmmakers to add a little originality and gravitas to their latest blockbuster reboot. 

If nothing else– Gus Van Sant will deliver a more “cinematic” treatment of Death Note than the Japanese films.

— Antho42 (@Fullantho) July 10, 2014

Death Note has the potential to be a genuinely interesting supernatural thriller, particularly since it relies on a weird enough premise that people won’t just compare it to other teen fantasy movies like Twilight. Plus, Japanese live-action movies never made much headway with English-language audiences, so there’s less chance of the Hollywood remake being branded as an inferior version of the original. 

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Photo via kaeru89/Tumblr

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*First Published: Jul 10, 2014, 5:13 pm CDT