EXCLUSIVE: Deadline told you two weeks ago that Paramount was courting Kevin Costner to play a key role opposite Chris Pine in the Kenneth Branagh-directed Jack Ryan film. I’m told that Costner has now accepted and they are working out a deal that will give him the chance to become a linchpin in not only the Jack Ryan film with Chris Pine, but also the spinoff franchise Without Remorse, for which the studio is now courting The Dark Knight Rises villain Tom Hardy, with Christopher McQuarrie rewriting to direct.
And the deal coming together envisions Costner potentially headlining his own film. He will play William Harper, a true blue American idealist who recruits and mentors both Ryan and John Kelly, the latter of whom becomes the CIA operative Clark by the end of Without Remorse. Branagh is reportedly going to play a villain as well as direct the Ryan film, and as Deadline first told you, Keira Knightley is the favorite to play Ryan’s love interest in the film.
I’ve been waiting to see Costner return to a big studio role and this sounds like a good one both for him and for Paramount. Costner galvanized Hatfields & McCoys, the History Channel miniseries which got a record cable rating and is up for 22 Emmy Awards, and it is clear that audiences want to see more of him. He has been very selective, but he’s stepping up here into a big opportunity. Paramount, which like every studio is looking to build tent poles, has a good opportunity for more than one here by cross-pollinating characters. In a way, Costner is stepping into a role that seems similar to what Marvel Studios and Disney have done with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, who got his biggest screen time in The Avengers after being seen in Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor. There is even a Nick Fury film in development, but I’m sure that Costner is getting paid better than the lowball salary with nine options that those Marvel actors were prodded to sign. Costner’s repped by WME and One Talent.