Well, this is surprising, folks! Deadline is reporting that Oscar winner Clint Eastwood — the man, the myth, The Mule — is expected to take over directing duties on The Ballad of Richard Jewell, which Ezra Edelman (OJ: Made in America) had been developing for the last two-and-a-half years.
It’s not quite shocking news, if only because Eastwood flirted with the project once before, but you have to remember that this was a 20th Century Fox project that is now owned by Disney, which also owns ESPN, which backed Edelman’s OJ Simpson documentary, a flat-out masterpiece that won an Oscar, an Emmy, a PGA Award, a Peabody Award, a Gotham Award, an IDA Award and the goddamn Indiewire Critics Poll and Village Voice Film Poll… only to lose at the MTV Movie + TV Awards. Did Disney tell Edelman it was moving on when Eastwood expressed interest again, or did Edelman just feel like if he couldn’t crack it in two years, maybe it was time for him to move on to something else? This is the kind of juicy Hollywood development story I’m looking for, people! If you know anything, email me…
Anyway, the other big loss here is the proposed cast! Deadline reports that no one is attached to star in the film right now, and while I thought we already knew that Leonardo DiCaprio had dropped out of playing Jewell’s lawyer, I thought two-time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill was initially a great choice for Jewell. He may have lost too much weight now though, despite the fact that Hollywood can do amazing things with prosthetics.
Jewell, of course, was the security guard whose life was turned upside down when an overzealous reporter at the Atlanta Journal Constitution caught wind that he was a possible suspect in the Olympic Park bombing during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He went from local hero to social pariah in a split second… and he didn’t even do anything wrong. He just found a suspicious backpack and cleared the area.
Deadline credits the script to Billy Ray based on the article of the same name in Vanity Fair, but I’m positive that Edelman has been working on this thing, so unless the studio threw out all of his work and decided to start from scratch, I’d be surprised if he didn’t wind up with some kind of credit. The guy just invested two years of his life into this, as far as I know. And out of nowhere, it’ll be Eastwood of all people yelling “action!” and “cut!” this summer.
Hill and DiCaprio are still involved in The Ballad of Richard Jewell, as they’ll produce alongside Appian Way’s Jennifer Davisson Killoran, and Kevin Misher, whose Misher Films exec Andy Berman will also be involved in a producing capacity. Fox exec Mike Ireland will oversee the project for the studio.
Three of Eastwood’s last four films have grossed over $100 million at the domestic box office, with his most recent movie, The Mule, taking in $171 million worldwide. Not bad for a guy who turns 89 on May 31st!