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Johnny Depp in 'Thin Man?' Downey as survivalist?

Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr. are looking beyond their franchises.

Downey (left) is currently enmeshed in "Sherlock Holmes 2." But his company has partnered with Columbia to purchase film rights to Neil Strauss's "Emergency!: This Book Will Save Your Life." This book went by me when it appeared in 2009, but Publisher's Weekly describes it this way: "With the U.S. threatened from within and without (e.g., swine flu, all sorts of religious extremists, subprime mortgages), the author takes three years of wilderness survival and lock-picking classes in an effort to learn how to survive anything from online hackers to terrorist plots."

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Could it be done as a wild comedy? Sounds to me like "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Survivalism (But Were Afraid to Ask)."

Meanwhile, Johnny Depp (below) is larking through his fourth go-round as Jack Sparrow, in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." He is said to love the idea of doing a new version of William Powell's soused, witty private eye, Nick Charles, from "The Thin Man" series based on Dashiell Hammett's novel.

Charles' specialties are cracking cases, cracking wise and cracking open the liquor cabinet: definitely in Depp's sweet zone. But what's crucial to this notion is finding the right costar to play Nora Charles, Nick's wife (Myrna Loy in the original). After all, "The Thin Man" remains the rare movie that makes marriage look like effervescent fun.

By the way, is there any Old Hollywood star more underrated than William Powell?

And what other classic roles could you envision for Downey and Depp?

I've always thought Downey would be triumphant as Sydney Carton in "A Tale of Two Cities."

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