EXCLUSIVE: Michael Shannon has been cast as George Westinghouse in the Weinstein Company’s The Current War, a fact-based story about how he and rival Thomas Edison competed to create a sustainable electricity system and market it to the U.S.
Shannon joins Benedict Cumberbatch, who will play Edison. It’s directed by Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’s Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and is financed and distributed by TWC.
Michael Mitnick writes the script, which takes place in the late 1880s and revolves around the two titans and their battle over the supply of electricity. Edison championed the use of a direct current for electric power distribution over an alternating current, which was backed by Westinghouse Electric and a host of European companies. Timur Bekmambetov will produce the project alongside Film Rites’ Steve Zaillian and Garrett Basch.
TWC is eyeing an early December shoot for the film, so they’re casting aggressively for other roles.
Shannon is hot property right now, having wowed critics at the Venice and Toronto festivals with his performance as a grizzled Texas sheriff in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. He also starred in Werner Herzog’s thriller Salt and Fire, another TIFF project, and most recently was seen in Jeff Nichols’ Loving, where he played the Life magazine photographer who shot the iconic images of the first interracial married couple in the U.S. Up next, he’s got roles in Guillermo del Toro’s other-worldly Cold War title The Shape of Water as well as TWC’s TV series Waco, currently in development.
The Current War is one of two projects that’s generating sparks on the Edison-Westinghouse subject at the moment: Teddy Schwarzman’s Black Bear Pictures is fully financing and producing The Last Days of Night, written by Graham Moore, based on his own book that was published through Random House. It’s directed by Morten Tyldum and has set Eddie Redmayne to star, only this story sees Redmayne play famed lawyer Paul Cravath, who is tasked with defending Westinghouse after Edison wins the race to the patent office and sues his rival for an unheard-of sum of $1 billion. Nora Grossman and Ido Ostrowsky of Bristol Automotive also produce. The duo previously paired with Moore, Tyldum and Schwarzman on The Imitation Game. That pic, which saw Moore win the Oscar for adapted script, was released by TWC and starred Cumberbatch, so the vie for the electric crown is a real split between that team.
The Last Days of Night is on course for a February shoot, and with The Current War aiming for December, the race really is on to see who’s got the bigger power.
Shannon is repped by CAA, Wetzel Management and attorney David Krintzman. Cumberbatch, who hits theaters with Doctor Strange next week, is with UTA.
Moore is repped by CAA and for publishing by ICM Partners and managed by Think Tank Management. WME reps Tyldum with Anonymous Content. Redmayne is repped by CAA and United Agents.