EXCLUSIVE: The Elmore Leonard novel Bandits is finally getting its movie closeup. Bruce Willis is the driving force behind this one, and he will play the lead role in an ensemble drama that will be scripted by Mitch Glazer, who’s coming off Magic City and Rock The Kasbah. Emmett Furla Oasis’ Randall Emmett and George Furla will finance, and produce the film with The Gotham Group’s Lee Stollman and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein. Willis is part of the ensemble cast of Rock The Kasbah.

banditsIt’s the second time for Willis and Bandits, which he optioned when it was published in 1987. The tale is a black comedy that is set in New Orleans and Willis will play Jack Delaney, an ex-con who is struggling to stay on the straight path as he dresses up corpses as a mortician in his brother’s funeral home. Things get much more exciting for him when he meets a gorgeous lapsed nun who is just back from Nicaragua where she took care of lepers and tried to keep the contras from hacking them up with machetes. She wants to smuggle a beautiful young Nicaraguan woman – who contracted leprosy–because the woman’s ex-lover, a Somoza-type colonel, wants to kill her for possibly infecting him. That same guy is raising millions from rich Americans to take back to the contras and the bored mortician finds his own cause, stiffing the colonel and getting away with a fortune with the help of the nun and an ex-cop.

elmore leonardAfter Willis let the rights lapse, Bandits was one of the four Leonard titles that were once acquired by Quentin Tarantino, who let the others go after he turned Leonard’s Rum Punch into Jackie Brown. EFO’s Tim Sullivan and Brandon Grimes will be co-producers and Wayne Marc Godfrey will be exec producers. The author’s sons are also involved: author Peter Leonard, who oversees his father’s estate, will be exec producer along with the author’s  grandson Tim Leonard.

EFO is prepping the Martin Scorsese-directed Silence, while Stollman and Goldsmith-Vein are shooting The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials for Fox. They more recently worked on Life Of Crime, an adaptation of Leonard’s novel The Switch. UTA and attorney Steve Younger rep Leonard’s estate, EFO is repped by WME while Willis, Glazer and Gotham Group are CAA. UTA and CAA will jointly rep the movie.