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Ridley Scott in Talks to Direct Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington in American Gangster

By Brian B. — February 14th, 2006

Variety reports that Ridley Scott is in talks to direct Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington in the Brian Grazer-produced drama that had its plug pulled in late 2004 by Universal. The hope is to shoot this summer.

Universal will decide this week whether to finance or co-finance the revamped '70s crime drama, or possibly let it go. Two other studios are circling the project if Universal backs down.

The drama has a checkered past. In late 2004, Antoine Fuqua was a month from starting production in Harlem with Washington and Benicio Del Toro when Universal Pictures chairman Stacey Snider canceled the film over fear the budget would cross $100 million. Pay-or-play deals with Washington and Del Toro got settled, and the studio wrote off more than $20 million.

Imagine's Grazer, who developed the drama from a New York magazine article by Mark Jacobson, kept trying. Hotel Rwanda writer-director Terry George was brought on to rework Steve Zaillian's script and rein in the budget. Scott is working with George's draft.

The story revolves around a Harlem heroin kingpin who figured out a way to smuggle heroin in the coffins of American soldiers returning from the Vietnam War.

Crowe, who would play a cop, appears to have the most challenging schedule. He's booked to star with Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann's untitled period epic.

Crowe and Scott just completed "A Good Year" and previously made Gladiator together. Grazer made A Beautiful Mind and "Cinderella Story" with Crowe. Crowe and Washington previously played adversaries in "Virtuosity," before Crowe became a star in "L.A. Confidential."

Dont't forget to also check out: American Gangster