While some actors would capitalize on a box office hit like Law Abiding Citizen by seeking the biggest payday in the marketplace, Gerard Butler is going a different way. He has teamed with director Marc Forster to tell the story of Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing biker tough guy who found God and became a crusader for hundreds of Sudanese children who’ve been kidnapped and pressed into duty as soldiers.
Butler wants to play Childers in Machine Gun Preacher, which Forster will direct from a script he developed with screenwriter Jason Keller. After watching an NBC Dateline news story on Childers’ crusade, producer Robbie Brenner and Keller tracked him down to secure the rights to his memoir Another Man‘s War: The True Story of One Man‘s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan. Childers’ response, according to insiders, was something like, “Who the hell are you, and why the fuck should I trust you with my life story?” Raised by a tough ironworker father and taught to be a brawler with a hatred of bullies, Childers emerged from a dead-end future to become a preacher who found some real bullies to battle. Moved by the stories of the atrocities committed by rebels under the command of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, Childers established an orphanage to house 200 children, then formed a militia to protect them, recover other kidnapped kids, and dispense outlaw justice on their captors. The Keller script was developed independently with funding from Gary Safady’s and Craig Chapman’s Kaushi Entertainment. (Safady is a real estate entrepreneur.) Forster and his Apparatus partner Brad Simpson are producing with Brenner, Deborah Giarratana, and the Kaushi duo.
Working with Forster who’s known for coaxing good performances out of actors (i.e. Monsters Ball), Keller turned in a script that hooked Butler who wants the chance to show some acting chops to go with his 300 brawn. If he has his way, Machine Gun Preacher will start production later this year. The package is now being shopped for production financing by CAA and Management 360.
Keller is an up and coming writer who recently turned in a draft on the Fox film about the 1960s rivalry for sportscar supremacy between Ferrari and Ford, Race to the Death. Forster is attached to several projects — The Chancellor Manuscript, and the zombie saga World War Z with Brad Pitt at Paramount, and Angelology at Sony.