The news that Leonardo DiCaprio was going to play Travis McGee in a movie based on The Deep Blue Good-by had me over the moon. While not quite the physical match for John D. MacDonald's iconic detective, or rather self-described 'salvage consultant,' I was still ready to see Leo chillin' on the Busted Flush in the Dennis Lehane-scripted adaptation. But Leo left the building - but would still produce - so the hunt was on for a new leading man to play the Fort Lauderdale beach bum who takes on clients only when the booze runs dry.
Director James Mangold—The Wolverine, 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line and Girl Interrupted (he also wrote the last two) - was onboard. Deadline reported the filmmaker was looking for an A-List talent; Fox hoping that The Deep Blue Good-by, the first of MacDonald's 21-book series would be the beginning of a beautiful franchise.
I played casting director asking who you saw in the role and throwing out my thoughts.At the start of the series, McGee is somewhere in the thirty to mid-thirties age range, six foot two and as an ex-football player, he'll be broad-shouldered and husky, with a deep, dark tan from spending so much time between gigs, just hanging around on the boat and cruising. Rush' Chris Hemsworth could fit the bill nicely; he's got the brawn. Matthew McConaughey, while a tad bit older, has McGee's laid back style; he just needs to beef it up a bit from the lanky Rust Cole of True Detective. He famously lost 30 pounds for Dallas Buyers Club; for the sake of art and Travis McGee, it could be time to pack on a few this time around.
Then came the news Christian Bale was cast. LOVE him. But for Travis? Not so sure. Still, things moved forward, Peter Dinklage cast as Meyer, Rosamund Pike as Louise Atkinson.
In April '2015 I posted that both Bale & Rosamund Pike were off to Puerto Rico to start shooting The Deep Blue Good-by.
And then came the really bad news for this John D. MacDonald fan and her husband who possesses tattered copies of most of the Travis McGee tales. In August 2015 Mr. Bale bailed. Hurt his leg, wasn’t up to the stunts. And for now it looks like that’s it. No more McGee movie. No more Travis pondering how to rescue this year’s wounded woman from the all too frequent run ins with some slug of a man.
For now we’ll have to content ourselves with the McGees we do have on film, and the books, always the books. In the past McGee has been played by Rod Taylor, in the 1970 film version of Darker than Amber, while Sam Elliot wore the flip flops in a 1983 TV movie titled simply Travis McGee, although it was based on The Empty Copper Sky.
Thirsty for more McGee? I just ran into a guy on twitter who goes by the name of @travismcgee who tweets nada but quotes from “John D. MacDonald’s loose-jointed boat bum, pale-eyed, wire-haired girl seeker, beach-walker, gin-drinker” like so:
We looked odd in the mirror, all the rawboned height of McGee standing next to and slightly behind the pale perfection of the naked girl.— Travis McGee (@travismcgee) April 3, 2016
That should take care of your McGee withdrawal symptoms. Check out these vintage paperback covers. While the books have all been reprinted many times, I adore the pulpy feel of the originals with the broads on 'em. Here are the rest of the books, in order, beginning in 1964, and culminating with the final McGee tale, The Lonely Silver Rain in 1985. You'll notice a change of scenery starting with #15,1974's The Turquoise Lament where McGee himself is the cover boy. Whether it was because Travis McGee was so popular you didn't need the girl on the cover anymore, or whether the sexual politics of the 1970's dictated the new designs, those sexy, pulpy girl covers began to be replaced with less sultry, less exploitive images.