EXCLUSIVE: Last year, Dailan Wanda Group joined with veteran filmmakers Hawk Koch and Mark Gordon to create an independent/awards-caliber film division called The O Project. The first film was to be the $12.5M-budgeted drama that had Russell Crowe and David Oyelowo negotiating to star. Arc of Justice, which was to go before the cameras on October 1 with helmer José Padilha, has just run aground. That gritty courtroom drama based on the book Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age now is in limbo because the Chinese government has placed restrictions on investment into the U.S. — which includes film production, causing Wanda to pull out.
Arc of Justice sounds like one heck of a timely project. It’s based on the true story of a racially charged 1925 incident in Detroit that ended with African-American doctor Ossian Sweet (Oyelowo) charged with murder and the NAACP mounting a defense led by Clarence Darrow (who was to be played by Crowe). Crowe, who won a Best Actor Oscar for Gladiator and has been nominated twice since (A Beautiful Mind, The Insider), and Oyelowo, who gave an Oscar-worthy performance in Selma, had been well into negotiations when the money was yanked by Wanda.
The filmmakers now are looking for other financing or will have to wait until the end of October, when the National Congress of the Communist Party of China is expected to convene to decide whether to open the purse strings for further Chinese investment in the U.S. Perhaps a financier/distributor in town will pick up the ball and run with it on what is a worthy undertaking.
Boyle’s book, which won numerous awards including the National Book Award, was adapted for the screen by Rodney Barnesa and Max Borenstein.