When word arrived last month that Clint Eastwood was circling The Ballad of Richard Jewell at Fox-Disney, it came as quite the surprise, but I can’t say this latest development is terribly surprising at all. Disney has decided to drop the project and allow Eastwood to take Ballad to his longtime home at Warner Bros., Collider has confirmed.
The Ballad of Richard Jewell will mark the director’s tenth-straight film at Warner Bros., as Eastwood hasn’t directed a film for another studio since he made 2008’s Changeling for Universal. He’s coming off the success of the drug dealing drama The Mule ($172 million worldwide), so WB execs were eager to get back into business with Eastwood, but he couldn’t shake the story of Jewell, the heroic security guard whose life was turned upside down when the media caught wind that he was a possible suspect in the Olympic Park bombing during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, turning him into an instant social pariah.
After flirting with the project once before, he was now prepared to direct the film for Fox-Disney, but after conversations with studio chief Alan Horn, who goes way back with Eastwood thanks to his time running Warners, the two men mutually decided to part ways. The project didn’t make much sense for Disney in the first place, given its commitment to blockbuster excellence, and Warner Bros. was all too eager to welcome Eastwood back into the fold with a project that could be made relatively cheap and possibly with A-listers to boot. I assume they reimbursed Fox for all (or most) development costs incurred.
Jonah Hill was previously attached to play Jewell, while his Wolf of Wall Street co-star Leonardo DiCaprio was to have played his attorney. Now, neither of them will star, and instead, they’ll simply produce the project. This so-called ballad seems right up Eastwood’s alley, as the Oscar-winning filmmaker has long been fascinated by heroes and why they make the decisions they do. What compels them to act on behalf of others?
It’ll be especially interesting to see who Eastwood casts here, as Jewell is a hell of a role that could land the right actor a possible Oscar nomination. His old pal Matt Damon (Invictus, Hereafter) could probably put on some weight (as he did for The Informant!) and crush this role, but if Eastwood wanted to go a bit younger, I could see Jesse Plemons or even Danny McBride doing something interesting with the part. Paul Walter Hauser (I, Tonya) would be a good, outside-the-box choice. I wonder if James Corden could pull it off. And what about Chris Pratt? Would he revert back to Fat Pratt for a director as esteemed as Eastwood? One actor who is likely off the table is Mindhunter star Cameron Britton, who was recently cast as Jewell in the second installment of Mindhunter, but you never know — after all, the actor who plays Charles Manson in Mindhunter, Damon Herriman, was cast in the same role in Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.
Joining Hill and DiCaprio as producers will be Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Kevin Misher, Tim Moore and Jessica Meier. Billy Ray (Shattered Glass) wrote the script, which is based on a Vanity Fair article of the same name by Marie Brenner. Variety broke the news.