EXCLUSIVE: Black Label Media has stepped up to produce and finance Hellhound On His Trail. Scott Cooper will direct his scripted adaptation of the Hampton Sides non fiction bestseller about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr by James Earl Ray. Set against the larger backdrop of the Civil Rights movement, the film will chronicle the terrifying collision of these two figures and the subsequent largest manhunt in FBI history. That hunt was led by J. Edgar Hoover, and led to the apprehension of prison escapee Ray before he fled the country. The book was published in 2010 by Doubleday, and was a national bestseller and Edgar Award nominee. Black Label Media and John Lesher will produce alongside Cooper. They are eyeing a spring production start.

The subject matter — the assassination of MLK and manhunt by the same bureau that wiretapped Dr. King — has been a provocative film topic because the manhunt naturally plays like a ticking clock procedural thriller. Past attempts to tell the story, most recently with the Paul Greengrass-script Memphis, never got to the starting line. Cooper, who broke through with Crazy Heart, and followed with Out of the Furnace and Black Mass, unveils his next film at the Toronto Film Festival next month, the Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike-starrer Hostiles.

Formed by Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill and Thad Luckinbill, Black Label Media has several big movies coming. They include the Joseph Kosinski-directed Only The Brave with Josh Brolin and Miles Teller (formerly Granite Mountain) which Sony releases October 20, and the Sicario sequel Soldado coming next year. Horse Soldiers, produced with Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon and Michael Pena, will be released January 19 through Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. The Danny Strong-directed Rebel in the Rye will be released by IFC this fall with Nicholas Hoult and Kevin Spacey starring.

Cooper is repped by CAA and Jackoway Tyerman. Sides is repped by ICM Partners. The Memphis-based author will be the film’s historical consultant through Santa Fe-based Atalaya Productions.