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Will Smith Eyes Denzel Washington To Star In His Hurricane Katrina Drama 'The American Can'

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist June 29, 2011 at 1:16AM

When you think about it, it's pretty amazing that no one has paired up Will Smith and Denzel Washington. Certainly you would think that two of the biggest stars in Hollywood would have been brought together in something by now, and while they are being tossed around as the possible leads for a remake of Sidney Poitier's comedy "Uptown Saturday Night" another project may pair them up sooner, but with only one of the stars in front of the camera.
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When you think about it, it's pretty amazing that no one has paired up Will Smith and Denzel Washington. Certainly you would think that two of the biggest stars in Hollywood would have been brought together in something by now, and while they are being tossed around as the possible leads for a remake of Sidney Poitier's comedy "Uptown Saturday Night" another project may pair them up sooner, but with only one of the stars in front of the camera.

Vulture reports that Will Smith is still trying to get his Hurricane Katrina drama "The American Can" and though he was once looking at it as a starring vehicle, he's going to stick to producing it and he wants Washington to take the lead role. The project first cropped up in the spring of 2009 with John Lee Hancock attached to write and direct, with the helmer gaining major steam later the same year with "The Blind Side," showing that Smith had some pretty good instincts. The film is based on the true story of John Keller, an ex-Marine, who along with residents of the American Can apartment complex, ward off looters and try to find help after the levees break in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Katrina. Keller did manage to eventually get help two days later, saving the lives of dozens of sick and elderly residents of the building. His tale was chronicled in the documentary "New Orleans: My Home, My Life, My Love."

But wait, this sounds like exactly the kind of meaty, awards baiting fare that Smith gravitates toward so why doesn't he just star in it himself? As it turns out, he wants to get the ball rolling on the movie sooner rather than later but his own commitment to that M. Night Shyamalan movie "One Thousand A.E." with his son Jaden Smith is taking priority. Originally set to start shooting in September, the production has been pushed to January likely due to the delays on "Men In Black 3" (and we'd guess that may have been a factor in Smith not being able to commit to Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained").

Washington is certainly interested, and is giving notes to both Smith and Sony on the project, and if they like the direction he wants to take it, it will all come together. It sounds like a pretty great story made for a big screen telling, but Hancock's made-for-TV like direction and Hallmark sentimentality doesn't make for a good fit in a film where racial politics play a central role. If it does move forward, here's hoping that Washington's notes include a change in director. Our suggestion? Frequent Washington collaborator Spike Lee who is already an encyclopedia of knowledge about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina thanks to his excellent documentaries "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" and "If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise." He'd be a great choice and we'd just be glad to see him back helming a feature film again.

This article is related to: Films, Actors, John Lee Hancock, One Thousand A.E., The American Can


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