After years of working as a screenwriter on films like The Bourne Legacy and Tim Burton’s never-made Superman movie, Dan Gilroy made his directorial debut in 2014 with the magnificent Nightcrawler. The film offered up a possessed performance by Jake Gyllenhaal and a gripping anti-hero story, and audiences have been mighty curious to see what Gilroy might choose as his second directorial effort. Well that project is starting to coalesce, and if Gilroy has his druthers, it’ll be anchored by one of our best actors: Denzel Washington.
Per Variety, the Oscar-winning performer is eyeing the lead role in Gilroy’s legal drama Inner City, which is being envisioned as a character study akin to Sidney Lumet’s 1982 film The Verdict, a movie that starred Paul Newman as an alcoholic lawyer who takes a medical malpractice case solely to improve his own standing. If Washington signs on, he’d play a lawyer who is dealing with a major change at his company, marking a return to a genre he previously covered in 1993’s The Pelican Brief.
Apparently the project is garnering serious interest from studios, not just because of how great Nightcrawler was, but because studios are reportedly looking for something “different” after a summer movie season full of sequels and reboots failed to connect at the box office. Netflix is among those that are tracking the project, and the script is poised to be sent out around Labor Day where it will no doubt kick off a bidding war—especially if Washington commits.
Washington has been Gilroy’s top choice from the get-go, but he wanted to focus on finishing his new directorial effort Fences before making any future commitments. With post-production on that film underway, he’s now apparently fielding offers, including one for J.C. Chandor’s high-profile crime thriller Triple Frontier.
Again, there’s no commitment on Washington’s part just yet, but this could be a seriously meaty role for the actor to dig into. And with Oscar buzz surrounding Fences—including potential Best Actor/Director nods in the mix—Washington buzzworthiness is about to soar even higher. He’ll next be seen on the big screen in the Western remake The Magnificent Seven, and has been working in smaller genre fare like The Equalizer and 2 Guns as of late with the odd drama mixed in (see: Flight), so from my vantage point, Inner City seems like a no-brainer.