By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist July 4, 2011 at 10:27AM
Zoe Saldana and Mélanie Thierry Also In Contention, Michael Fassbender Definitely Out
If there was every any doubt, after work like "Shallow Grave," "Trainspotting" and "Sunshine," Danny Boyle has firmly planted his feet among the A-list of directors: he's had two Best Picture nominees in a row, with the first of them, "Slumdog Millionaire" winning a Best Director Oscar; he's scored a big stage hit in "Frankenstein"; and he's been handed the responsibility for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. While the latter will take up most of Boyle's next year, he's not going to be totally absent from the film world; it was announced a few months ago that he's planning a new heist thriller, "Trance," a remake of the 2001 British TV movie.
The plot involves an employee of an auction house who recruits a gang for a heist, only to wake with amnesia, and forget the location of the stolen painting, leading to the suspicious thieves bringing in a hypnotist. The plan is for Boyle to shoot the film before his Olympics duties, and then edit it afterwards. Unsurprisingly, the director was assembling an impressive cast, with Michael Fassbender in talks for the leader of the robbers, and James McAvoy to play the amnesiac, reuniting the stars of "X-Men First Class." The bad news is casting has hit a bump in the road, the good is that there are some high-profile replacements waiting in the wings.
Twitch reports that Fassbender has been forced to drop out, due to the always-popular "scheduling conflicts," (although with what is unclear: we expect an announcement on a new project or a vacation for the actor in the same slot soon), as had rather been suspected for some time -- when McAvoy's casting was announced, it was originally reported that Fassbender was off the film. The good news is that Boyle isn't hanging about, and wants Oscar-winner Colin Firth to step in to replace the Irish-German actor in the role of Aiden. It's not a typical part for Firth, it would seem, which is intriguing, and his slate is clear, although he is playing another thief at present, opposite Cameron Diaz in "Gambit."
Meanwhile, there's a female lead going as well (at a guess, we'd say it could be the hypnotist), and supposedly Scarlett Johansson heads up a short list of actresses, with Zoe Saldana and "The Princess of Montpensier" star Mélanie Thierry not far behind. With the lengthy shoot for "The Avengers" still ongoing, and Jonathan Glazer's "Under The Skin" set to start up in the near future (it recently received $2.8 million in U.K. funding), her schedule may be trickier, so we wouldn't be surprised to see one of the other actors step up (and/or her dumping Glazer for Boyle and the poor "Sexy Beast" helmer having to look elsewhere).
All in all, things are looking promising, although we're slightly concerned that the film has the potential to be as overly styled as "127 Hours" was in some moments, and it's still unclear who's writing it: we assume that Boyle's current go-to guy Simon Beaufoy is involved, but that is only an assumption. Filming will start in September, and then the rushes will be put on ice until August 2012, when Boyle will start editing for a release in early 2013.