After ‘The Fall Guy,’ We Need Mark Wahlberg’s ‘Six Million Dollar Man’!

The Big Picture

  • The Fall Guy
    is an action comedy film based on
    The Fall Guy
    TV series starring Lee Majors.
  • The Six Million Dollar Man
    was a successful TV show, but plans for a movie adaptation have faced many setbacks.
  • Efforts to adapt
    The Six Million Dollar Man
    for the big screen have been ongoing since the 1990s, with multiple changes in rights and direction.

The Fall Guy, a fun action comedy starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt, crashes into theaters this weekend and sees Gosling as Colt Seavers, a stuntman returning to the industry after a leave of absence, who is drafted by his ex to find the missing star of the big -budget film she’s directing. And, of course, all the ensuing stuff blowing up, and general chaos one would expect. What you may not know is that the film is based on The Fall Guy TV series (and follows an earlier attempt at an animated adaptation by DreamWorks).

The series, which ran from 1981-1986, had Lee Majors in the lead role of Seaver. It was Majors’ follow up to the highly successful series The Six Million Dollar Man. Seems like another property that’s perfect for the big screen, right? Well, in 2014, a movie adaptation with Mark Walhberg (now called The Six Billion Dollar Man) was officially confirmed, and yet, we still don’t have it. But efforts to see the series adapted for film hail back much, much earlier, to the late 1990s. It’s now been over 25 years, so where is it?

The Six Million Dollar Man

After a test flight accident, an astronaut is rebuilt with bionic technology, giving him catastrophic unparalleled strength and speed. Tasked with using his new abilities for covert operations, he confronts complex challenges and formidable adversaries, all while grappling with the personal ramifications of his transformation.

Release Date
January 18, 1974
Lee Majors, Richard Anderson, Martin E. Brooks, Lindsay Wagner, Alan Oppenheimer, Quinn K. Redeker, Than Wyenn, John de Lancie

‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ Is More Than a TV Show

Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man, better than he was before. Better. Stronger. Faster.” So begins The Six Million Dollar Man, which follows the adventures of Lee Majors’ former USAF astronaut Colonel Steve Austin, who is severely injured when testing an experimental aircraft for NASA. Near-death, Austin is rebuilt with a bionic right arm, increasing his strength, bionic legs allowing him to run over 60 mph, and an infrared bionic eye with 20:1 zoom lens. The operation comes to a whopping… wait for it… $6 million, which, at the time of the series, was even a lot more money than it is today. Austin uses his new abilities as a secret agent for the fictional Office of Scientific Intelligence, the OSI.

But before hitting the small screen, Austin began life as the protagonist of Martin Caldin‘s 1972 novel Cyborg, with a storyline that would be echoed by the series. Caldin wrote four novels in total with Austin, and made a deal for his hero to appear on television, beginning with three TV movies in 1973 under the guidance of the legendary Glen A. Larson. The first film was a hit, landing in the top 10 for the week of its premiere, with the two follow-ups being proof that ABC had a winning concept on its hands. The series ran from 1973 to 1978, launching Lee Majors into stardom, a cornucopia of paraphernalia (like this The Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox at the National Museum of American History), and the iconic sound effects that accompanied Austin’s action scenes. The series would also spawn the equally popular The Bionic Womanwith Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers, who ran from 1976 to 1978, with the two characters appearing in three made-for-TV movies together following their cancellations.

Kevin Smith Wrote a ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ Screenplay

The journey to get The Six Million Dollar Manwhich would soon pick up the current name associated with the project, The Six Billion Dollar Man (inflation?) to the big screen began in 1995, with director Kevin Smith submitting a screenplay to Universal Pictures. There wouldn’t be any news on the project again until 2001, when Michael Zoumasa former executive with Bob Weinstein‘s Dimension Films, tried to kickstart the project by working with Weinstein and two other executives to make a deal with the Caldin estate. With the deal done, there was nothing left to do but start the cameras rolling, right? Hm, not so fast. Caldin’s estate only had claim on domestic movie adaptation rights. Globally, those rights belonged to Universal Television. To get the movie made, Dimension had to bring into Universal Pictures, who granted approval point-forward.

So, on with the show! Nope. Even with agreements in place, The Six Billion Dollar Man was stuck in purgatory. Names like Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprioand Bryan Singer would circle the project, but pass on it. In 2003, Jim Carrey was named as the star, with Joker and The Hangover director Todd Phillips adapting the series as an action comedy, but that also fell apart. The inactivity around the film pushed Weinstein to purchase the domestic rights from the Caldin family for $750,000, as per the previously cited article in The Wrapso as not to lose the rights altogether. It was a phenomenally bad decision, with the rights returning to the family after the film wasn’t made within seven yearsand Weinstein renewing the option for $250,000 on an annual basis.

‘The Six Billion Dollar Man’ Gains Mark Wahlberg, But Loses Studios

In 2014, hope was renewed when actor Mark Wahlberg and director Pete Berg were linked with the project. For a time, at least. Wahlberg was still on board, but Berg was out shortly after and replaced by Argentinian director Damian Szifron. With an actor and director on board, it was a go, slated for release in 2017. Then Weinstein caused the project to crash yet again. Not Bob, but Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced executive. The sexual misconduct scandal destroyed The Weinstein Company, and Dimension Pictures with it. With The Six Billion Dollar Man in jeopardy, Warner Bros. came to the rescue and scooped up the rights. Now with Wahlberg, Szifron, and a rumored role for Mel Gibsonfinally Steve Austin would hit the movie theaters in time for 2019.

Mark Wahlberg Was a Hilarious Scene-Stealer in This Absurd Comedy

This unusual dark comedy gave Wahlberg the chance to lampoon himself in one of his funniest performances to date.

But it can’t be that smooth, can it? It wasn’t. Szifron left the project in 2018, to be replaced by Travis Knight in 2019. With another extension for the rights to 2021, surely nothing could stop it now. Except no one wanted to make the movie with Wahlberg. Per the previously cited The Wraptelevision critic Matt Zoller Seitz sums it up by saying, “Lee Majors was never going to win any awards for his fast speed and versatility, but he had something – he had an every guy, real-world quality that anchored the material. Mark Wahlberg just doesn’t do it for me.” Without any further progress, the rights returned yet again to the Caldin estate, which made a deal for an 18-month extension at a mere $250,000. The latest word comes from Wahlberg himself, who shared a promising update in December 2023, with Skydance Media pushing to acquire the rights. While it’s the most promising news on the project to date, if you’re taking bets, put your odds on The Six Trillion Dollar Man in the summer of 2044.

The Six Million Dollar Man is available to watch on Peacock in the US

Watch on Peacock



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