God damn if Ruben Fleischer doesn't keep finding new ways to makes us excited about "Gangster Squad." The "Zombieland" director is moving into more serious territory with Warner Brothers' big-budget period actioner, and has assembled a mouth-watering cast of awards bait, with Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and "Crash" star Michael Peña all confirmed for the film, written by ex-cop Will Beall, based on a series of L.A. Times articles about an L.A.P.D unit in the 1940s.
Now, one other name thought to be circling the project is officially locked in, with Variety reporting that fast-rising actor Anthony Mackie, last seen in "The Adjustment Bureau," has now signed on to join Penn, Brolin, Gosling and Peña. The actor was rumored to be being courted for the film six weeks back, but it looks like things are now official: the actor will play an ex-cop, Rocky Washington, 'the Sheriff of Central Avenue,' the first black lieutenant in the LAPD who went back to be a beat cop, only to be recruited by Gosling and Brolin's characters for their elite unite, which aims to take down legendary mobster Mickey Cohen (Penn).
Mackie's been on the up ever since his scorching performance in Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar-winning film: He might have lost out to 'Hurt Locker' co-star Jeremy Renner for the lead in "The Bourne Legacy," but he'll appear later in the year in the Anna Faris comedy "What's Your Number" and the Hugh Jackman robot boxing flick "Real Steel," while next year will bring high profile supporting gigs in the Sam Worthington vehicle "Man on a Ledge" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."
Update: Interestingly, we were told by Warners recently that Mackie's involvement was a mere rumor, and that Jamie Foxx had actually been in talks for a part -- we assume the same one, as Washington is the only major black character in the project. We were told by Warners that Foxx wasn't taking the role, due to scheduling conflicts (although with what, it's unclear) -- could it be that Mackie had turned the project down, the studio courted Foxx, and that when he didn't work out, they upped their offer to the original actor? We'd also heard that Tom Hanks was circling the project, but Warners said that, while early conversations had taken place, it didn't look good -- although considering that they denied Mackie's involvement, who knows what'll happen there?...
What's unclear is what signing on to "Gangster Squad" means for his involvement in the Brad Pitt starrer "World War Z" -- it was reported at the same time as his involvement in Fleischer's film that he was also mulling an offer for the zombie epic. That film starts shooting shortly, while "Gangster Squad" doesn't roll til September, so it's conceivable that they he could do both, if the scheduling works out.
Either way, his presence in "Gangster Squad" can only be a boon for a film that's already got one of the most promising casts of 2013, a director on the rise and a much-acclaimed script. Considering the success of similarly themed video game "L.A. Noire," Warners must be clearing space for all the money they're going to make on this one, and fingers crossed, some critical plaudits as well.