‘Duke Nukem’ Movie in the Works from ‘Cobra Kai’ Creators, Legendary (Exclusive)

‘Duke Nukem’ Movie in the Works from ‘Cobra Kai’ Creators, Legendary (Exclusive) thumbnail

Hollywood has flirted with adapting the ’90s video game for years.

Josh Heald, Hayden Schlossberg, and Jon

Josh Heald and Hayden Schlossberg. Jon Hurwitz
Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic

Duke Nukem, the 1990s video game that helped popularize the first-person shooter genre, is getting the feature film treatment.

Legendary Entertainment, the company behind Dune and the Godzilla monster movie series, has picked up the movie rights from Gearbox, with Cobra Kai creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg on board to produce.

Legendary will also produce, as will Jean Julien Baronnet (Assassin’s Creed) of Marla Studios, which specializes on video game adaptations. Counterbalance Entertainment is the production company for Heald, Hurtwitz, and Schlossberg.

Launched with a self-titled debut in 1991 from Apogee Software, later called 3D Realms, Nukem is $1 billion video game franchise that began life as a platform game for personal computers. When the third game, Duke Nukem 3D, came out in 1996, it became not only a critical hit but one that helped usher in the ubiquity of first-person games for years to come. After laying low for years and stalled development, the franchise came back in 2011, after Gearbox acquired 3D Realms, with Duke Nukem Forever.

Nukem centers on its titular hero, modeled on certain attributes from 1980s action movies heroes (including catchphrases), who fights an alien invasion in Los Angeles. He travels from movie sets and strip clubs to moon bases and spaceships. He deals with mutant LAPD officers, women in alien incubators, as well as the Cycloid Emperor.

A search for a writer is underway to tackle the material. Although no director has been appointed, it is possible for one of the Counterbalance teams to sit behind the camera.

With its action-packed movie style, it’s not surprising that Hollywood has been trying to make the game into a feature since a while. Various indie producers have attempted to develop Nukem, though none got very far. Gearbox had a Nukem project in development at Paramount with John Cena attached to star over four years ago, but that stalled out.

That led Gearbox to become more deliberate in its Hollywood strategy for adaptations of its video games and it now has one already on deck: Borderlands, directed by Eli Roth and featuring an all-star cast including Cate Blanchett and Kevin Hart. Lionsgate is the behind the movie which is expected to be released later in 2022.

The Counterbalance trio made a name for themselves in the franchise comedy spheres: Heald penned the Hot Tub Time Machine franchise for MGM while Hurwitz and Schlossberg first wrote then later took over directing the Harold & Kumar comedies. They re-imagined The Karate Kid for a new generation with Cobra Kai, a runaway hit for Netflix that also garnered numerous Emmy nominations. Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg are the showrunners and creators of many episodes.

CAA is responsible for

Counterbalance. Hansen Jacobson reps Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg.

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