Bradley Cooper to play Mack Bolan, the Executioner!

With more than 700 novels in print, the Mack Bolan film will have plenty of source material to draw from...
With more than 700 novels in print, the Mack Bolan film will have plenty of source material to draw from... | Source

It's About Time!!

Don Pendleton's avenging vigilante Mack Bolan - also known as The Executioner - conquered the printed page a long time ago. His series of paperback adventures have been thrilling an army of devoted readers for more than 40 years, so naturally the character has attracted attention from Hollywood more than once. Despite numerous attempts to bring the series to the silver screen over the years, however - Steve McQueen, Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds and Vin Diesel have all been considered for the title role at one time or another - the enduring action hero has never made the leap to your local multiplex --- until now.

Bradley Cooper: Is this the face of Mack Bolan??
Bradley Cooper: Is this the face of Mack Bolan?? | Source

Mack, meet Bradley. Bradley, meet Mack.

In August 2014, Linda Pendleton - widow of Bolan creator Don Pendleton - announced that a movie deal had finally been sealed for the long running Mack Bolan property, with high powered screenwriter Shane Salerno at the helm. Salerno's credits include work on such blockbusters as Michael Bay's Armageddon, the sci-fi/horror sequel Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, and David Fincher's Zodiac. He will also be collaborating with James Cameron on one of the three upcoming sequels to Cameron's mega-hit Avatar. Warner Brothers Pictures, which snapped up the Mack Bolan film rights, envisions the character as the next big action-film franchise, with the potential to become an American answer to the James Bond series.

As of this writing the Mack Bolan movie is still in the preliminary stages, so no release date has been announced for the film and no story or casting details have been made public - except for the surprising news that superstar Bradley Cooper is attached to portray Mack Bolan. Cooper, of course, has become one of Hollywood's most in-demand leading men thanks to his roles in such films as the Hangover trilogy, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle. Most recently, Cooper provided the voice of Rocket Raccoon in the current Marvel Comics blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy. Todd Philips, who directed Cooper in all three Hangover movies, is reportedly interested in reuniting with him to direct the first of what Warner Bros. hopes will be many Mack Bolan films.

A 1970s edition of "Executioner" #1 promises a "MAJOR FILM SERIES COMING!" -- well, hey, better late than never.
A 1970s edition of "Executioner" #1 promises a "MAJOR FILM SERIES COMING!" -- well, hey, better late than never. | Source

So who the heck is Mack Bolan, anyway?

For the uninitiated, Mack Bolan is the protagonist of a long running series of paperback adventure novels created by author Don Pendleton. The first book in the Executioner series, War Against the Mafia, was published by Pinnacle Books in 1969 and introduced young Master Sergeant Mack Bolan, an Army Green Beret whose second tour in Vietnam was cut short by tragic news from home. Mack's father had fallen into the grip of a local Mafia loan shark and in his despair had taken his own life, as well as those of Bolan's mother and sister. Mack returned home to Massachusetts to bury his loved ones, and then embarked on a mission of vengeance. Using the lethal skills he'd learned in the jungles of Vietnam, Mack wiped out the Mafiosi responsible for his family's deaths...and the saga began.

Legend has it that Pendleton intended War Against the Mafia as a one-shot, but Pinnacle convinced him that the character's adventures would be perfect for an ongoing series of novels. Over the course of the first 38 Executioner adventures (known to fans as the Mafia Wars era), Mack Bolan went on the road, taking his vendetta against the Mob across the United States (as well as a few trips overseas), crushing organized crime wherever he found it. Naturally, this made Bolan a marked man, wanted not only by the Mafia, but also by legitimate law enforcement agencies. Don Pendleton wrote all of these early adventures save for #16, Jersey Guns, which was penned by a ghostwriter.

Reader response was overwhelmingly positive, and Mack Bolan quickly became the Big Kahuna of the so-called "Men's Adventure" book genre that enjoyed its greatest success during the 1970s and early '80s. While the rest of Mack's pulp contemporaries from that era like Nick Carter: Killmaster, The Death Merchant, The Penetrator, Hawker, The Specialist, The Assassin, The Butcher, etc. have all fallen by the wayside, The Executioner continues to endure. In the 45 years since Mack's first mission against evil, The Executioner and its various related series have sold an estimated 200 million copies around the world in a host of languages.

In the final volume of Pinnacle's Executioner series, 1980's Satan's Sabbath (#38), Bolan was captured by the U.S. Government and offered a deal: he would be given amnesty for his prior crimes if he agreed to use his talents on behalf of the USA - as an undercover operative working against threats to national security. Bolan's "death" was staged in New York City and he was given a new identity as Colonel John Phoenix, leader of the top secret Stony Man anti-terrorism program.

Vintage 1980s Bolan. Cover art by the legendary Gil Cohen.
Vintage 1980s Bolan. Cover art by the legendary Gil Cohen. | Source

Mack Bolan Fan Convention (1985)

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The Gold Eagle Era

Starting with Executioner #39 ("The New War"), Mack Bolan had a new name, a new mission and a new publisher - Gold Eagle, a division of paperback powerhouse Harlequin Enterprises - yes, the same company that produces thousands of bodice-ripping romance novels for an addicted audience of devoted housewives. Don Pendleton stepped back from the typewriter and left Mack Bolan in the hands of a rotating cast of ghost writers, who continue to chronicle his adventures today. In addition to the regular monthly Executioner series, Mack also stars in a bi-monthly series of longer adventures known to fans as "SuperBolans" and makes regular appearances in Gold Eagle's Stony Man series of novels, in which Bolan and his two hand picked commando teams (Able Team and Phoenix Force) travel the globe tackling threats to the free world. In 2014, Harlequin Enterprises was purchased by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, and Gold Eagle became an imprint of the new owners' Harper Collins publishing division.

Given the longevity of the character, flashbacks to Bolan's Vietnam-era origins are rarely, if ever, mentioned in current novels. Like Superman, Batman and James Bond, Mack Bolan is ageless.

Don Pendleton passed away in 1995, but his creation shows no signs of slowing down. As of August 2014, there have been more than 400 titles published in the Executioner series, almost 175 SuperBolans and more than 120 Stony Man volumes - which means that if the Mack Bolan movie becomes a hit, there will be plenty of source material for future entries in the film series. I've been a Mack Bolan fan since the mid 1980s and I am stoked to finally see The Big Guy kick some ass on screen! If you've never read a Mack Bolan book before, there's still plenty of time to hit your local store and stock up so you'll be up to speed whenever the movie finally hits theaters. Get in on the ground floor now!

With new ownership and a big budget film series on the launch pad, Mack Bolan should continue to fight evil doers for a long time to come.
With new ownership and a big budget film series on the launch pad, Mack Bolan should continue to fight evil doers for a long time to come. | Source

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Comments 7 comments

bethperry profile image

bethperry 2 years ago from Tennesee

I read your Hub and told my husband and he is whooping it up. Yep, huge fan he is.

My response: I'll just pray the movie is better than the writing in the novels - the dear gods know it couldn't get any worse. But thanks for posting - you made hubby's day!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hey bethperry - glad I could make your husband's day! Though I'm a fan of the book series from way back, I will agree with you that sometimes the writing leaves....shall we say...something to be desired, haha. Some of their writers are definitely better than others.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated


kethdredd 16 months ago

I read the heck out of this series as a kid. A similar but superior series IMHO is Jerry Ahern's The Survivalist series. Its like Mack Bolan with a kickass survivalist hideout.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 16 months ago from The Garden State Author

Hi kethdredd - yup, I remember The Survivalist series too. Those books would probably make a pretty cool movie too! Thanks for stopping by.


Collin 13 months ago

Any news on the Mack Bolan movie? I thought they'd started shooting, but I can't find any recent news.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 13 months ago from The Garden State Author

Unfortunately I haven't heard anything about its progress since I first posted this. If the movie project is still active, we probably won't see it for a while yet.

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