By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist June 1, 2011 at 1:41AM
Teaming up on three films -- "The Yards," "We Own The Night" and "Two Lovers" -- there hasn't been any director/actor pairing in recent American cinema as rewarding as that between James Gray and Joaquin Phoenix. However, circa the actor's stunt during the press rounds for "Two Lovers" where he grew a Will Oldham-esque beard and declared he was starting a rap career, many wondered if that relationship was over. And despite what reports may have surfaced, Gray wasn't worried, saying as early as February 2009 that he was confident he would work with Phoenix again. Then in September of last year, it was revealed that he was in on the joke from the beginning. So the joke is over, Joaquin Phoenix needs to get back to work and the duo are pairing up for their fourth film. And they've got some fantastic talent to help them out.
Deadline reports that Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner are all set to star in "Low Life" which sounds as grim as the title suggests. The story centers on "a woman (Cotillard) attempting to immigrate from Poland. Her American dream turns into a nightmare. While sailing to Ellis Island and a new start, her sister grows deathly ill and she is forced to trade sexual favours for medicine and food to keep her sister alive. Once they land, she is warned to keep quiet about what happened. Though she does, she walks away with immigration papers that deem her a woman with bad morals. With no place to go, she falls prey to a charming sleazebag (Phoenix), who persuades her to turn tricks in New York. Renner will play the sleazebag's cousin, a magician who sweeps the young woman off her feet and is her best chance to escape the nightmarish life she has fallen into." While it's not confirmed, it does seem this will be a period piece which is pretty exciting stuff.
In addition to Phoenix, both Cotillard and Renner have come into Gray's orbit recently. Cotillard's partner Guillaume Canet has been co-writing an English language remake of 2008 French film, "Les Liens Du Sang," though word on that project has been quiet since last year. And it was only last month that Renner tapped Gray to write Steve McQueen biopic as a potential star vehicle, though it looks like that one will be a way off just yet.
Of course, everyone is busy -- Phoenix has "The Master," Coitllard with "The Dark Knight Rises" and Renner with "The Bourne Legacy" -- so this will shoot next year. Either way, this is tremendously exciting news. No word yet on the status of the assassin thriller "The Gray Man" the director was attached to earlier in the year. We suppose he could knock it out before moving to "Low Life," but it would need to come together shortly.