Fox Pilot ‘The Middle Man’ On Pause As Ben Affleck Becomes Unavailable To Direct

Blame it on Batman. There has been a change in plans for Fox’s high profile drama project The Middle Man, which has a pilot order and has been on track to series under Fox’s new development model. Oscar winner Ben Affleck, who was set to helm in his pilot directing debut, had to pull out because of scheduling issues with Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman movie, in which Affleck plays Batman. While Warner Bros. recently pushed the release date for the movie from 2015 to 2016, word is that production is not being delayed and the main players have been summoned to start work right away. Additionally, I hear Affleck has other film commitments in the spring, when The Middle Man pilot is scheduled to shoot. Casting on Middle Man had been well under way with auditions already scheduled. That now has been put on hold until Fox brass figure out a course of action. I hear they are considering two options: bringing in a new director and continuing with casting and shooting the pilot after a short break for the new helmer to get up to speed or waiting for Affleck to finish the movie in the summer and direct the pilot himself as originally planned. In either case, Affleck remains an executive producer on the drama, which has been a pet project for him since 2009 when he started working on the idea with his producing partner Chay Carter. The Middle Man had assembled a small writing room under writer/showrunner Glenn Gordon Caron. The writers will continue to work on the three backup scripts and a bible ordered by Fox, which remains high on the project. Even if the network brings in a new director, the project’s prospects likely won’t be affected. Look at FX’s Tyrant, which also had a pilot order geared to series with backup scripts. The pilot lost its original director, Ang Lee, but the network believed in the project, and it went to series.

Like most of Affleck’s movies, The Middle Man, from Fox, Pearl Street and Caron’s Picturemaker Prods., takes place in his native Boston. Described as a classic Boston crime story, it is set in the 1960s and tells the story of Rudy MacAteer, an FBI agent charged with taking down the Italian mafia, and his confidential informant, Irish-American gangster Mickey Flood. MacAteer’s efforts inadvertently give rise to the Irish mob, as he finds himself bending the laws he is governed by. Affleck, Caron and Carter executive produce. Caron wrote The Middle Man on spec from a story he developed with Michael Yebba and Emilio Mauro who had penned a previous incarnation.

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