EXCLUSIVE: Elizabeth Banks has been set to star alongside Anthony Mackie in Cochran, the Taylor Hackford-directed drama about that casts Mackie as Johnnie Cochran in a career-making case revolving around the pursuit of justice in the Signal Hill police brutality case in 1981. Banks will play Mary Neiswender, an investigative newspaper reporter for the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

The case revolved around the death of Ron Settles, a star football player at Long Beach State who was stopped for speeding and later found hanged from a bed sheet in the Signal Hill PD cellblock. While the police called it a suicide, an autopsy — performed after Cochran persuaded Settles’ family to exhume the body — showed that he had been choked to death. The family was awarded $760,000 in a civil suit, the police chief resigned, and reforms were mandated. While Cochran was trying the case in court, Neiswender sleuthed the story for her newspaper and got others in the jail at the time to reveal that beatings were routine and that no one had a sheet that could be used to end a life.

The script is by David McMillan. The film is being backed by The Firm, and Mackie and Jason Spire will produce with Robbie Brenner, Kevin McKeon  and Jeff Kwatinetz. Hackford also will be producer. McMillan is exec producer, and the hope is to go into production in January. UTA and CAA are co-repping domestic rights

Banks is in production on The Happytime Murders, opposite Melissa McCarthy, and next will be seen in Pitch Perfect 3, the third film in the franchise, which she also produced. She also is attached to direct Charlie’s Angels at Sony. Her company Brownstone Productions recently announced the sale of two pilots, Spirited at ABC and Step Strangers at Fox.

Banks is represented by UTA, Untitled Entertainment and Ziffren Brittenham.