Michael Keaton is the first star casting on American Assassin, the adaptation of the Vince Flynn bestselling novel series that Michael Cuesta will direct for CBS Films and Lionsgate. Keaton doesn’t play Mitch Rapp, the title character who ruthlessly carries out covert counter-terrorist operations for the CIA in the book series. Keaton will play Stan Hurley, a badass Cold War veteran who teaches the young assassin everything he needs to know. Stephen Schiff adapted the novel and Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler are producing. CBS Films and Lionsgate are co-financing; CBS Films is overseeing the production and marketing while Lionsgate will release what is hoped to be the start of a series. Production begins this summer.
The series will begin as Rapp is a black ops recruit who’s devastated by the loss of his fiancee to a terrorist attack. The CIA deputy director assigns the shadowy Hurley to train a grief-stricken but highly motivated Rapp how to thwart terrorist operations and hunt the perpetrators. As Rapp’s training progresses, the pair is dispatched on a joint mission with a lethal Turkish agent to stop a mysterious operative from starting World War III in the Middle East. Rapp appears in 14 bestselling novels written by Flynn, who died in 2013. This has long been thought of as fertile ground for an action franchise, but it has taken forever to crystallize.
Now it is moving forward and the filmmakers will soon set their principal protagonist. That actor will be young, and in Keaton, the film series gets an established star with chops, and one who has been on a tear in the past few years. He was Oscar nominated for his performance in Birdman and most recently starred in the ensemble of Spotlight, which just won the Best Picture Oscar. He next plays McDonald’s franchise master Ray Kroc in The Founder, a film that The Weinstein Company will release August 4.
“Stan Hurley is one of the pillars of the Vince Flynn universe and a favorite character for millions of readers, so casting him was a daunting challenge,” said Cuesta. “To have an actor as intelligent and gifted as Michael Keaton bring this beloved character to life is a thrill for everyone involved in American Assassin and a cause for celebration amongst ‘Hurley’ fans the world over.”
Cuesta most recently directed Kill The Messenger with Jeremy Renner. Keaton is repped by ICM Partners, Anonymous Content and Wendy Kirk at Ziffren Brittenham.