EXCLUSIVE: Fox has closed a deal to acquire rights to Marie Brenner’s 1997 Vanity Fair article “The Ballad Of Richard Jewell”, which will be developed for Jonah Hill to play the title subject. Jewell was the security guard who discovered a backpack in the Olympics compound in Atlanta in 1996. Initially hailed a hero for reporting the suspicious knapsack and then helping clear bystanders from the area before it exploded, Jewell was subsequently vilified just three days later as a potential suspect, his life and reputation torn apart in the advent of the 24 hour news cycle. Leonardo DiCaprio will play a lawyer Jewell knew casually, a Southern attorney who mostly did real estate closings and seemed in over his head, but he guided Jewell through a hellish Twilight Zone that went on even after the FBI officially cleared Jewell’s name three months later.
Brenner, whose VF article was the original source material for the Michael Mann-directed tobacco whistle-blower tale The Insider, accompanied Jewell and his attorney just as it finally became clear he had nothing to do with placing the bomb. The film will be produced by Appian Way’s DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Hill and Kevin Misher, the latter of whom brought in the article. Misher Films’ Andy Berman will also have a producing role. Mike Ireland is overseeing for Fox.
This comes as both DiCaprio and Hill are up for Oscars for Best Picture nominee The Wolf Of Wall Street. It is particularly a strong role for Hill, who continues his remarkable transition from comic actor to serious roles that started with an Oscar-nominated turn in Moneyball and continues with the Rupert Goold-directed True Story, in which Hill plays Michael Finkel, a disgraced journalist who got the chance at redemption when a suspected killer (James Franco) took Finkel’s name, and would only talk to that journalist. That project is also at Fox, with New Regency. (more…)