New Projects: Richard Jewell, ‘Apostle Paul’, Malala, and James Gunn

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This week brought us another update on the Richard Jewell thriller that would reportedly re-team Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill following their work together on The Wolf of Wall Street. Deadline is reporting that Clint Eastwood is now circling the project.

Jewell was a police officer who discovered a backpack with a bomb inside at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and helped to evacuate the area. Though he was originally hailed a hero, misreporting by the press ultimately labeled him a potential suspect. Hill would play Jewell, and DiCaprio would play the Southern lawyer who helped clear his name.

The film is based on an article called “The Ballad of Richard Jewell” that ran in Vanity Fair in 1997, and Billy Ray (Captain Phillips, The Hunger Games) wrote the screenplay for the currently untitled film. It was originally presumed that he might join up again with Paul Greengrass to direct, but Greengrass recently agreed to do a fourth Jason Bourne movie with Matt Damon. Now Eastwood, with the pick of the litter after a monster hit like American Sniper, is suspected to take the job. But Deadline speculates that Eastwood may not want to break his loyalty to Warner Bros. The rights to the screenplay are currently owned by 20th Century Fox.

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Hugh Jackman is putting down his Wolverine claws and picking up a cross. Deadline reports he has just signed on to star in Apostle Paul, a Biblical drama set to be produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Jackman will play an apostle who traveled to the Roman empire to preach the word of Jesus Christ and later founded several churches. With a script coming from Matt Cook (Triple Nine), Apostle Paul sounds like easily the biggest studio production of a religious story that isn’t also a sword and sandal epic like Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Deadline has word that Fox Searchlight have acquired the rights to Davis Guggenheim’s latest documentary based on the life of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani education activist for women and girls who as a teenager became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Guggenheim’s film is called He Named Me Malala, which will tell the story of how Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban soldiers as a result of her speaking out about women and children’s rights. The picture is slated to release sometime this year.

While James Gunn readies Guardians of the Galaxy 2, he announced via Facebook this week that a script of his own writing dating back to 2010 will now be directed by Greg Mclean (Wolf Creek). The film is called The Belco Experiment, in which employees arriving at work one day are mysteriously sealed in by their employers and order to kill their colleagues or be killed themselves. Gunn will be producing the project and production is scheduled to start in June. Collider has Gunn’s full announcement.

Johnny Galecki, of The Big Bang Theory fame, has signed on to play the lead role in Rings, the third entry in the horror franchise that started with 2002’s The Ring. Galecki will star alongside Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights) in the film directed by F. Javier Gutierrez that is scheduled to arrive November 13. Here’s the log line via IMDb: “The film revolves around the events that took place before The Ring. It tells the story of the years before the video tape came to be and the beginning of how Samara’s terror began.”

Transformers: Age of Extinction was the first movie to ever cross $1 billion at the global box office. So there seems to be no end in sight for the franchise, even if Michael Bay chooses not to return. To perpetuate that, Deadline explains that Paramount Pictures has organized a “writers room” overseen by Akiva Goldsman to envision numerous potential spinoff films based on the Transformers universe of characters. It reflects the ongoing trend of studios like Disney and Marvel who wish to create an extended universe in their films in order to improve the overall “brand”. So does that mean we’ll soon be getting individual Optimus Prime or Bumblebee origin stories? I would presume almost certainly yes.

As far as classic video game franchises go, it doesn’t get too much bigger than Metal Gear Solid. The sprawling story and stealth gameplay created by Hideo Kojima seems long overdue for a live action film adaptation. Deadline this week reported that Sony has tapped Jay Basu (Monsters: Dark Continent) to write the screenplay and Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) to direct.

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