Ben Affleck is lining up a new directorial project, and no, it’s not a superhero movie. While the multitalented performer/writer/filmmaker is currently busy playing the Caped Crusader in Warner Bros.’ currently-filming Justice League, he’s closing in on a deal to direct and star in an adaptation of the Agatha Christie short story Witness for the Prosecution for 20th Century Fox, which he’ll also produce alongside Matt Damon, Jennifer Todd, and the Agatha Christie estate.
Christopher Keyser, who created Party of Five and currently writes for the FX series Tyrant, is penning the screenplay for the courtroom drama, which tells the story of a trial involving a man arrested for the murder of a wealthy older woman who named the man as her sole heir. The man, it turns out, was already married, which casts a great deal of suspicion on him. During the trial, his wife agrees to testify for the prosecution, albeit as part of a convoluted plan to eventually secure a “Not Guilty” verdict.
The great Billy Wilder adapted the story for the big screen in 1957 with Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, and Tyrone Power in the lead roles. The film garnered six Oscar nominations in total, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress, so there are certainly big shoes to fill.
This kind of whodunit drama is a curious choice of material for Affleck, whose previous directorial efforts have been steeped more in thoughtful character study than plot—although one could argue Argo is more of a dramedy thriller. He most recently wrapped his long-awaited follow-up Live by Night, which is a prohibition-era crime drama, and he’s attached to direct a standalone Batman movie for Warner Bros. that he’s co-writing with Geoff Johns.
Where does Witness for the Prosecution fall on Affleck’s schedule? It’s unclear. After he wraps Justice League he’ll no doubt be busy with awards season promotion for Live by Night, and while Warner Bros. no doubt wants that Batman movie sooner rather than later, Affleck has a hefty amount of sway with the studio and is in no hurry to rush that film into production before the script is in tip-top shape. Moreover, while Live by Night was set as Affleck’s Argo follow-up years ago, he had no qualms pushing that film when acting opportunities arose for films like Gone Girl or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
One curious aspect of Witness for the Prosecution is Damon serving as producer. Affleck’s set to star in the film, but perhaps this could be the project that finally reunites the Oscar-winning screenwriters in front of the camera? Assuming their schedules finally align, that is.