"The Hurt Locker" might have picked up the Best Picture Oscar, but it was also the lowest-grossing movie to do so in years, taking in a mere $17 million at the U.S. box office. But this morning, it looks as though director Kathryn Bigelow's next picture won't have the same problem, as it's found itself coincidentally surfing the zeitgeist. While the director's been waiting for the A-list cast of her war-on-drugs thriller "Triple Frontier," led by Tom Hanks and with names like Sean Penn, Will Smith, Christian Bale, Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem thought to be circling, to get their schedules in order, she's been working with Mark Boal, writer of "The Hurt Locker," on an untitled Black Ops thriller that's set to shoot in the summer.
The film had been rumored to be about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, although reps for Boal told us in January that it wasn't true. Seems like someone was being a little hazy with the truth: the news that broke last night of the real-life death of the al-Qaeda mastermind has seen Deadline confirm that the project, which is in pre-production, and starting to put a cast together, has the working title of "Kill Bin Laden," and, as that might suggest, apparently deals with an earlier, unsuccessful attempt at rubbing out the terrorist. Like us, Mike Fleming had previously been told that the project "isn't specifically about the Al Qaeda leader," and most details are still being kept top secret, but the working title alone seems to suggest that he figures in the picture to some degree.
What's more, it appears that Bigelow already has a first choice for the lead, in the form of Australian actor Joel Edgerton. He's been a familiar face on the scene for some time, cropping up in the likes of the "Star Wars" prequels and "King Arthur," but his brief role in last year's terrific crime flick "Animal Kingdom" seems to have given his career a new lease of life -- he's starring alongside Tom Hardy in the buzzed-about MMA drama 'Warrior," he's got a key role in the prequel/reboot to "The Thing," and he's got the male lead, opposite Jennifer Garner in the offbeat dramedy "The Odd Life Of Timothy Green."
And his ascension to the A-list seems to be imminent -- it was reported a few weeks back that the star was director Tony Gilroy's top choice for the lead in "The Bourne Legacy" and while Universal nixed the casting in favor of Jeremy Renner, they were said to be pursuing him for the title role in "Snow White and the Huntsman," opposite Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron. Now, Bigelow is said to be courting the actor for the lead here -- we're assuming as a black ops member, rather than as Bin Laden...
Of course, we imagine it'll depend on whether Edgerton has signed on for the fairy tale film -- the Bigelow project won't pay as well, for sure, but Edgerton's always been serious-minded about his career, and he'll certainly be tempted. If he does indeed go with "Kill Bin Laden" (almost certainly not what the film will end up being called), it spells trouble for "Snow White and the Huntsman" -- the film has a serious leading man problem, with names like Tom Hardy, Johnny Depp, Viggo Mortensen and Hugh Jackman all turning the role down. It says something of the tight spot that Universal are in that they were prepared to go for a less well-known name like Edgerton; with Relativity's rival film "The Brothers Grimm: Snow White," with Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer and Lily Collins, hitting theaters six months beforehand, things aren't looking too great for the film right now.
Not that things are all plain sailing for Bigelow, either. If the reports are true, and Boal's script focuses on an earlier, failed excursion to get the terrorist leader (and we imagine, by extension, examining U.S. intelligence failures, a la Paul Greengrass' "Green Zone"), it might suddenly be relevant, but it's also unlikely to catch the international mood -- audiences would likely rather see a movie about how Bin Laden was tracked down, rather than how he wasn't, and topping off the film with a title explaining that Osama was eventually captured would be fairly unsatisfying. Boal could, of course, rewrite, but it would probably lead to a delay to the film's start date, and it would likely completely change the nature of the project.
Our gut says that the good news from Pakistan will actually cause more problems for Bigelow's film than advantages, and we wouldn't be surprised to see it drop out of view, at least for the moment. Having said that, the financing is in place, courtesy of Megan Ellison, so the film could power on -- we're certainly hoping that we see something, whether the Black Ops project, or "Triple Frontier," from Bigelow sooner rather than later.