Denzel Washington is in early talks to star in the Warner Bros. sci-fi adaptation Shovel Ready, based on the forthcoming novel by Adam Sternbergh.

The story is set in a dystopian New York City that is on the verge of ruin, where a majority of the population escape reality through a digital fantasy world. If a deal is finalized, Denzel Washington will play an assassin hired to murder a powerful evangelist's daughter, although he instead becomes her protector.

Erwin Stoff is producing through his 3 Arts Entertainment company, although no screenwriter or director has been attached yet. The novel will be published in January 2014.

Denzel Washington, who landed an Oscar nomination earlier this year for his performance in Flight, will next be seen in 2 Guns, opening in theaters August 2. He is about to start production on The Equalizer, which reunites him with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua.