The Grand Theft Auto movie was closer to existing than we thought. Back in 2002, just after the release of GTA III, Kirk Ewing received a proposal to adapt the title with Tony Scott (director of Top Gun) at the helm, and Eminem starring as the head of a cartel around which the movie would focus. Ewing is a veteran of the video game industry who worked with the now extinct VIS Entertainment as director of Earthworm Jim 3D (1998), HEDZ (1999), and State of Emergency (2002). Once a close friend of the Houser brothers, co-founders of Rockstar games and creators of GTA, the developer recounted the story on a BBC podcast.
“This was right after the release of Grand Theft Auto III. And I think that at that point it was still in Sam (Houser)’s mind that it was possible that it was something he wanted to do. I remember hearing a call around four o’clock from an Italian producer offering to do a movie, and he said, “ Kirk, we have Eminem to play the lead role with the film directed by Tony Scott, five million dollars budget, are you interested”. And I call Sam and said, “You should hear this.” They want Eminem and Tony Scott in the Grand Theft Auto movie. And he’s never interested. At that time, they retreated from the conversation about making a movie, and realized that the media franchise they had was bigger than the movie going on.”
The rest is history. Eminem would end up starring in 8 Mile in 2002, and Tony Scott would keep going on with his career with Man on Fire (2004), Dejá Vu (2006), and Unstoppable (2010). As for the GTA Movie, that project would never take form, but people kept trying to make it happen. The most recent attempt was The Gamechangers, a 2015 BBC movie that detailed the creation of GTA which was struck by a copyright infringement lawsuit by Take Two. When the movie launched, the end result was enough to make the Rockstar Games official Twitter account post a direct message to the network.
Maybe we’re dealing with an adaptation cursed to fail here, although we’d love to see it if it happens one day.