By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist March 8, 2012 at 9:19PM
Ever since its surprise announcement a month or so back, "The Counselor," the first script written directly for the screen by Pulitzer Prize-winner Cormac McCarthy, author of "No Country For Old Men" and "The Road," has been one of the hottest projects in Hollywood. Swiftly snapped up by the producers of "The Road," the film soon had Ridley Scott attached to direct, and man-of-the-moment Michael Fassbender locked into the lead role, an attorney who gets way over their head in the drugs trade.
But while a host of A-list talent were mentioned in connection with other roles, little solid information has slipped out to date as to who might end up joining Fassbender in the project. Having got our grubby fingers on the script, we weighed in a week or two back on who we'd put on the film if we got our way, but now Scott seems to have had his say, as Twitch has learned that three actors are in early talks to come on board the project.
According to the well-connected site, both Jeremy Renner and Javier Bardem, who were previously mentioned as circling the film, are having 'preliminary conversations' to join the film, while Natalie Portman is also in negotations for the female lead, Laura, the fiancee of Fassbender's character, which would mark her first return to the screen since her Oscar win for "Black Swan." No longer in the running, it would seem: Brad Pitt, was originally mentioned in the same breath as Renner and Bardem.
We have to say, there are some questions here that remain to be answered. Twitch states that both Renner and Bardem are in talks for the same part, that of Reiner, a criminal who brings The Counselor into the drugs trade, who they describe as 'the villain of the piece.' But as you'll have noted from our look at the script, it's a stretch to describe the role as a villain. Furthermore, it seems like poor practice for both to be in talks for the same part: given there's one other substantial male part, of another drug-running type, Westray, could they both end up in the film? We'd peg Renner for the role of Reiner, and Bardem for the Westray part, but it's feasible that it might end up the other way around.
That being said, Twitch are normally on the money, so it's possible that we're in an either/or situation with Renner and Bardem, although it's odd to think of them as being up for the same part. As for Portman, she seems to have a hole in her schedule, but it's a brief one: she'll shoot two Terrence Malick films, "Lawless" and "Knight of Cups" in the second half of the year, along with superhero sequel "Thor 2," so one would hope that the film doesn't have its start date pushed back.
Assuming that all three end up in the film, we'd still prefer our own picks based on the script (Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Strong and Jessica Chastain), but it's hard to get too upset about a line-up of talent like this. And arguably the most indelible part in the script, that of Reiner's other half, Malkina, is yet to be cast, and we're intrigued to see where Scott goes to fill that role. All being well, shooting on "The Counselor" gets underway in May, and it's hard to think of a 2013 movie that'll be more anticipated.