EXCLUSIVE: Clint Eastwood is seriously circling the job of directing Fox’s high profile Billy Ray-scripted untitled project about Richard Jewell, the heroic security guard who discovered a suspicious backpack in the Olympics compound during the 1996 games in Atlanta. Jewell, who’ll be played by two-time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill, was vilified as a possible terrorist, and his good work in helping clear bystanders from the area before the bomb exploded turned into a trip to the Twilight Zone. Leonardo DiCaprio is a possible to play the Southern lawyer who helped Jewell navigate that hell.

Some navigating has to be done to make this one happen with Eastwood. After the blockbuster American Sniper, Eastwood can have his pick of projects. But he has always been incredibly loyal to Warner Bros, the place where he has made movies for decades. So Warner Bros and Fox are trying to find some common ground which might involve them sharing the picture as co-production partners. All parties are wary at the moment, but doesn’t this sound too good not to happen?

jonah and leoThe film is based on Marie Brenner’s 1997 Vanity Fair article The Ballad Of Richard JewellThe lawyer that DiCaprio might play knew Jewell casually and mostly did real estate closings. He seemed over his head, but guided Jewell through the demoralizing nightmare that signaled the downside of the advent of the 24-hour news cycle. The FBI finally cleared Jewell three months later. The film will be produced by Appian Way’s DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Hill and Kevin Misher, the latter of whom brought in the article. Misher Films’ Andy Berman also will have a producing role. Mike Ireland is overseeing for Fox. It came together when Hill and DiCaprio were eager to set up another project together after they had such a good time making The Wolf of Wall Street, for which both got Oscar nominations.

This project has been catnip for top directors since it was scripted by Ray, whose credits include Captain Phillips. Paul Greengrass circled it before returning to do another Bourne Identity with Matt Damon. David O. Russell also kicked the tires. They will have to come to some meetings of the mind over sharing and also things like budget, but Eastwood is the guy who brought in American Sniper for $58M (its gross is around $535M worldwide).  This Richard Jewell story sounds like a pitch down the middle of the plate for him. Stay tuned.