I'm delighted by today's news that UA is apparently pleased enough with what they've seen of Valkyrie that they've signed screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie to a first look deal. The Usual Suspects is one of my favorite films -- the kind of film that will make me overlook a guy not doing anything of note for the next ten to twelve years of his career -- and what little I've heard about Valkyrie so far has put it at the top of my must-see list for 2008. It's got Carice van Houten, for starters, which should be enough to get anyone into the multiplex. The actual terms of McQuarrie's deal are known only to him and United Artists COO Xenu, but The Hollywood Reporter's writeup says that there are currently "several projects under discussion." One of them, we know, will not be the Alexander the Great biopic that McQuarrie spent much time on, only to be beaten to the punch by Oliver Stone's worst movie ever, and yes, I've seen U-Turn and it's great by comparison.

McQuarrie is currently prepping The Stanford Prison Experiment, a film based on a famous behavioral study conducted at Stanford in the 70s in which students had to play the roles of guards and prisoners and things got out of hands. For some reason, this doesn't really ring my bell -- I can't see how it will work as a sensible movie -- but one thing I love about McQuarrie is his fascination with history and I'm crossing my fingers that he'll use this deal to get his John Wilkes Booth screenplay into the development cycle immediately. What little I know of the script is that people who read it a couple of years ago were floored by it and that its development seemed to follow the same trajectory as the Alexander script -- it was written, it was tossed around and toyed with by some A-list actors and then dropped because of competition concerns. But unless it's flown under my radar, I don't know of any competing Booth film that has made it to the filming stage, so why not do it now? And seriously, raise your hand if you'd rather see McQuarrie's John Wilkes Booth biopic than Steven Spielberg's Lincoln biopic. Just like I thought -- every hand in the room.