By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist December 12, 2011 at 2:35PM
As far as book-to-movie adaptations go, Dennis Lehane has had an enviable track record. While he's only had three novels brought to the big screen, they've resulted in both critical acclaim and box office success, with "Mystic River," "Gone Baby Gone" and "Shutter Island" all originating from the pages of his books. You might remember way back at the beginning of 2010, it was reported that Lehane was set to adapt this own short story (until then, he had let other writers to do the job) "Animal Rescue" featured in the anthology book he edited, "Boston Noir." That was the last we heard of it, and over the summer, David Cronenberg quietly became attached to direct, but it appears that didn't last very long.
Twitch reports that Cronenberg is now off the project, with Fox looking at both Alexander Payne and George Clooney as possible replacements. The story revolves around a killing that comes as a result of a lost pit bull, which seems to be a strange fit for both Payne and Clooney, and we'd be surprised if either of them take it on. Payne has long directed projects he develops extensively inhouse, not to mention he's got "Nebraska" currently set up at Paramount with a 2012 shoot in the works (though that's contingent on him landing a big name star to let him get away with a black-and-white, low-key road trip drama). As for Clooney, he too has about a zillion projects in the works under his own Smoke House banner (his partner Grant Heslov gave us a pretty solid rundown earlier in the fall) so we'd be surprised if he latched onto this as well.
But that said, the Lehane track record is very good and could be some enticing bait. For Payne, if "Nebraska" falls through, he's still got "Wilson" and presumably "Downsizing" in various stages of development so this could be a good stopgap to keep working after such a long absence. That said, the current success of "The Descendants" is likely opening a lot of doors. As for Clooney, his 2012 is pretty wide open, but with surgery apparently slated to help remedy an ongoing injury from the "Syriana" shoot, the currently clear calendar may be to allow him time to recuperate and recover. Couple that with Fox's reputation for not exactly being a haven for auteurs (there is nothing the studio likes more than to throw a zillion writers onto a project, squeeze budgets and production schedules) the material would need to be very enticing for either player.
However, the pick of Payne and Clooney may indicate the tone/tenor of the piece they are going for, so it'll be interesting to see who else comes into play.