By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 7, 2011 at 2:11AM
Considering the long, troubled history of musicians playing thinly veiled versions of themselves, it's still surprising, almost a decade on, how well Eminem's acting debut, in Curtis Hanson's "8 Mile," turned out. The film has its problems, but it was well above average for the genre, and the rapper known to his ma as Marshall Mathers proved to be a strong screen presence. Many predicted a long career, but he never really capitalized on the film's success, and other than a scene-stealing cameo in Judd Apatow's "Funny People," he was nearly derailed due to a prescription drug habit.
But with his last album, the aptly-named Recovery, recently named as the biggest selling record of 2010, and the rapper settling into sobriety, he's been circling a return to acting, with his name being linked to Fernando Mereilles' drama "360" towards the end of last year (although it appears that nothing came of it) and he's attached to the boxing drama "Southpaw," from "Sons of Anarchy" creator Kurt Sutter. Now, Vulture has news that Eminem's circling a new crime thriller at 20th Century Fox entitled "Random Acts of Violence."
The project's been in the works for a few years now, starting off life when Fox wanted to adapt the blockbuster games series "Grand Theft Auto." When the game's creators Rockstar refused the studio the rights, "Random Acts of Violence" was commissioned -- a script lifting heavily from the game, involving an ex-con who has to steal a string of sports cars in order to save his business, and his uncle, who botched a coke deal (which sounds closer to "Gone In Sixty Seconds" than to the game, but there we go...).
However, the script was generally disliked, and writer-director David Von Ancken, who was behind the Liam Neeson/PIerce Brosnan western "Seraphim Falls," and the David Duchovny TV show "Californication," was brought in for a grittier rewrite, which has apparently pleased studio bosses. Drawing comparisons with "The Departed" and "The Town," it follows an ex-con playing off his former gang and the FBI against each other, and Von Ancken is likely to direct, once his commitment to the new AMC Western series "Hell On Wheels" is done, with another writer likely to take a pass at the script in the meantime.
While we were mostly bored by what we've seen of "Californication," "Seraphim Falls" was a rather underrated bonkers little Western, with perhaps the last decent performances from its stars, so we're certainly interested to see Von Ancken's return to the screen, as well as Eminem's belated sophomore performance. There's no exact word on when it'll get moving, and whether its jumped "Southpaw" on the star's dance card, but it sounds like a start date later in the year is likely, with a 2012 release to follow. Also not yet known: whether it'll be sold as starring "Academy Award Winner Eminem" (the actor won a Best Original Song award for "Lose Yourself," putting him halfway to an EGOT).