The character Fletch originated in a 1974 novel by Gregory Mcdonald entitled Fletch, but the character really took off with a 1985 comedy of the same name starring Chevy Chase in the titular role. The popularity of this initial film led to a sequel, Fletch Lives, while the enduring popularity of Fletch meant that, even if that follow-up hadn’t been beloved, Hollywood still wanted more of this character. This desire began a long and winding road for a Fletch remake, which would stretch on for decades and various eras in the history of American comedy cinema.
The initial days of this remake are chronicled in a great breakdown of the remake’s struggles to exist in Entertainment Weekly from 2010. The saga began back in 1997, when Universal, which produced the original Fletch movies, heard a pitch from Kevin Smith for a dream project from this filmmaker. Smith had an idea for Son of Fletch, which wouldn’t be a remake, but a sequel, one that would have Chase reprising the Fletch role. Once Smith got Dogma on his radar, he pursued that project for the following years, leaving the Fletch sequel in limbo. A few years later, Universal’s grasp on the movie rights to Fletch lapsed.
Afterward, Miramax, Smith’s go-to studio home at the time, took a hold of the rights. Now Smith would be in charge of a remake entitled Fletch Won. However, the project hit an immediate standstill because of disagreements on casting. Big players at Miramax like Harvey Weinstein wanted famous faces like Ben Affleck or Ryan Reynolds to play Fletch, but Smith was convinced the only one who could assume this part was Jason Lee. There was a moment where it looked like Smith would go ahead and helm a Fletch reboot with Affleck in the lead just to get off the ground, but once Affleck left the project, Fletch Won began to gather mothballs at Miramax.
Even once the top brass at Miramax left to form their own studio named The Weinstein Company and snagged the Fletch film rights for this burgeoning new outfit, development on this film continued to stall. Versions starring Zach Braff and Justin Long never got off the ground. Part of the problem, per outlets like Entertainment Weekly, was simply how big the character of Fletch was. The iconic stature of this figure made him ripe for a remake in the eyes of studio executives. But for comic actors everywhere, the idea of stepping into such a big role, one that would forever be compared to Chevy Chase’s legendary performance, just seemed like a doomed mission.
The strangest iteration of Fletch Won came in the Summer of 2007 when The Weinstein Company’s grip on the Fletch movie rights was in danger of slipping away. Accepted director Steve Pink was now set to helm the project while inhabiting the titular role of Fletch was…Joshua Jackson. Famous from his lengthy stint on Dawson’s Creek, Jackson wasn’t somebody people immediately associated with comedy, but hiring an actor in his age range was meant to reinforce how this movie was focusing on a young, inexperienced version of Fletch. This whole iteration of Fletch Won sounded like a joke and would not end up lasting.
In August 2009, The Weinstein Company lost the rights to bring Fletch to the big screen, concluding roughly a decade of Harvey Weinstein and his comrades seizing full control over the character’s cinematic future. However, even after so much infamous turmoil, Hollywood studios weren’t ready to let go of the property just yet. In early 2011, another outfit bought up the film rights to the Fletch character. They weren’t snagged by a small long-forgotten indie outfit either. Warner Bros. was now the studio in charge of reviving the Fletch franchise on the big screen.
It would take three more years for significant movement to begin on the Warner Bros. take on Fletch, which was going by the name of Fletch Won. However, in 2014, the project landed Jason Sudeikis to play the title role. This version of the project was trying to be made in the mold of movies like Beverly Hills Cop and Midnight Run, while the choice of Sudeikis in the lead role was coming hot off the actor anchoring the hit Warner Bros./New Line Cinema comedy We’re the Millers. The decades and comedy tastes in moviegoers may shift, but even dating back to when Chevy Chase signed on to play the character, Fletch was always snagging the hottest comic actors of the time.
In early 2015, Fletch Won was dropped by Warner Bros. and picked up by Relativity Media, a studio that was releasing the comedy Masterminds, which featured Sudeikis in a significant supporting role. While Sudeikis was being retained in the lead role, the studio was seeking out screenwriters to lend a whole new perspective to this production. A few months after this news, though, Relativity Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At this point, it looked like a new 21st-century Fletch movie was downright cursed. The project faded away and Sudeikis moved on to other gigs.
Cracking a new Fletch movie was always going to be a tricky prospect, especially since the original Chevy Chase feature was such an immensely influential creation. But even making a story that lived up to that cultural legacy didn’t seem to be as much of a problem for a prospective new Fletch film as the fatal issue of this project always getting caught up at smaller doomed movie studios. The Weinstein Company and Relativity Media loved the idea of having a big brand name like Fletch on their respective slates, but they never had the financing or long-term stability to get this project off the ground.
Ironically, a new 21st-century Fletch film finally happened thanks to one of the original players in this mess. In July 2020, word broke that a radically overhauled version of Miramax was financing a motion picture entitled Confess, Fletch that would star Jon Hamm in the titular role. This would be a total reboot of the franchise helmed by Superbad director Greg Mottola. Once this project finished principal photography in 2021, it was clear that the wait was finally over. Fletch fans had been tormented for years, but a new movie starring this iconic character had finally come to fruition…though, presumably to the frustration of Kevin Smith, without Jason Lee in the lead role.
Confess, Fletch is set for release on September 16, and also stars Marcia Gay Harden, Kyle MacLachlan and John Slattery. The plot will center around Fletch’s fight to prove his innocence once he’s the prime suspect in multiple murders. At the same time, he’ll be searching for his fiancee’s stolen art collection, and no doubt there will be hilarious hijinks along the way.