EXCLUSIVE: The Cormac McCarthy script The Counselor might well be traveling on the fastest track toward production of any film in recent memory. I’m told that Ridley Scott has now committed to make The Counselor his next film. Other sources tell me that Scott has been talking to his Prometheus star Michael Fassbender about playing the title role. While a formal offer hasn’t been made, I believe there’s a high likelihood that Hollywood’s hottest actor will star in the film.

Scott is eyeing a May 1 start date, and he is talking to a number of high-profile actors to take part in a film that insiders are describing as “No Country For Old Men on steroids.” Let’s put the whole thing in perspective: McCarthy’s ICM agents, who expected him to turn in a new novel, were surprised that he instead took a detour and turned in his first feature spec script in December. The agents started talks on a rich spec deal with The Road producers Nick Wechsler and Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz. Negotiations started before the end of the year and the deal was done in mid-January.

While a number of directors began chasing the material, Scott jumped the line and basically settled on directing the film in late January. Now, there is a group of top actors who’ve read the script and want to be in the movie. Even though McCarthy’s books have been turned into such films as No Country For Old Men, The Road and All The Pretty Horses, this has to be heady stuff for the Pulitzer Prize-winning author. We’re talking six months between the time McCarthy turned in the script and when production is likely to begin.

The Counselor is reminiscent of the rough and tumble world depicted in the Oscar-winning adaptation of McCarthy’s novel No Country For Old Men. The protagonist is a respected lawyer who thinks he can dip a toe in to the drug business without getting sucked down. It is a bad decision and he tries his best to survive it and get out of a desperate situation.

When the producers bought it, Wechsler said “The spec falls smack in the middle of what everyone responds to with Cormac’s novels. Said Steve Schwartz: “Since McCarthy himself wrote the script, we get his own muscular prose directly, with its sexual obsessions. It’s a masculine world into which, unusually, two women intrude to play leading roles. McCarthy’s wit and humor in the dialogue make the nightmare even scarier. This may be one of McCarthy’s most disturbing and powerful works.” The script is contemporary, and set in the Southwest.

There is an active group of buyers and sellers doing brisk business in the frozen climes of Berlin at the European Film Market. Trust me, this is the project that has distributors talking. Fassbender’s repped by CAA.