'Blue Thunder' Remake Kicks Off Drone-Themed Film Frenzy

'Fifty Shades' producer Dana Brunetti is developing a modern take on the 1983 action thriller for Sony with the titular helicopter being replaced by the world's most advanced drone.

By Tatiana Siegel

Columbia Pictures is bringing a remake of the 1983 action thriller Blue Thunder to the big screen. But this time, the airborne surveillance weapon will be a world’s most advanced drone instead of a tricked out helicopter.

Craig Kyle, a Marvel Studios executive and writer, will pen a modern-day take on the film that starred Roy Scheider. Dana Brunetti, hot off the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, is producing Blue Thunder for his Trigger Street Productions. The move reunites Brunetti with his Fifty Shades producer Michael De Luca, who is now president of production at the studio and will oversee the remake.

Sony-based Escape Artists, which was simultaneously developing a similar take on the material, also is onboard to produce. Jason Blumenthal will produce for Escape Artists. Trigger Street’s Carter Swan will be involved in some producing capacity.

Given the exploding use of drone technology and the expansion of surveillance on U.S. soil, the new take is certainly timely. Hollywood has been looking to bring drone use, which has sparked major debate in the media, to the big screen.

Drone films on the horizon include the Ethan Hawke starrer Good Kill, which IFC will release on May 15, and Gavin Hood's Eye in the Sky (with an ensemble cast that includes Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman and Barkhad Abdi). But Blue Thunder could mark the first drone project for a major studio and one with presumably a much bigger budget.

John Badham directed the original Blue Thunder for Columbia, which centered on the pilot (Scheider) of a military-style combat helicopter nicknamed “Blue Thunder,” which was configured for police use to combat against possible large-scale civil disobedience during the 1984 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles. Blue Thunder also spawned a 1984 TV series that lasted 11 episodes.

Brunetti, whose Fifty Shades is racing toward a $550 million worldwide haul, has enjoyed success at Sony with ripped-from-the-headlines dramas like Captain Phililps and The Social Network. Escape Artists recent films for Sony include The Equalizer and Sex Tape.

Kyle, who has worked on Marvel’s live-action films including Thor, is a go-to writer on the company’s animated properties like the TV series Wolverine and the X-Men and Iron Man: Armored Adventure. He is repped by CAA.

Read more Drones in Movie Shoots: Debate Rages Despite Safety Claims, Cost Savings

Photo: Columbia Pictures, AP Images/Invision