EXCLUSIVE: Dylan O’Brien is in negotiations with CBS Films to play Mitch Rapp in American Assassin, the adaptation of the Vince Flynn bestselling novel series that Michael Cuesta will direct for CBS Films and Lionsgate. O’Brien will play the title character, who ruthlessly carries out covert counter-terrorist operations for the CIA in the book series. A deal is expected to make shortly, ending a long search for what is expected to be a star-making role. He would star alongside Michael Keaton, who signed on earlier to play Stan Hurley, a badass Cold War veteran who teaches the young assassin everything he needs to know. The idea is that O’Brien’s Mitch Rapp is college aged, and the hope is the actor grows as the series progresses.
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 franchise. Production begins in the fall, and they will be working around O’Brien’s recovery from injuries incurred during the shooting of Maze Runner: The Death Cure, which had to be postponed to give him time to heal up.
Lionsgate will be selling foreign on the film, and having O’Brien in the fold will surely help. It also means he’s recovering from his injuries.
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.
O’Brien is best known for The Maze Runner, and he’s part of the cast of the upcoming Deepwater Horizon, which is being made by Summit, so clearly they got a good look at the young actor’s potential. WME and Principal Entertainment rep him.