Mike Fleming

Ryan Reynolds has emerged as front runner in a pack of top young actors vying to star alongside Denzel Washington in Safe House, the David Guggenheim-scripted Universal Pictures drama that will be directed by Daniel Espinosa (Snabba Cash). Up for grabs is a great role of a young CIA agent who must transport a dangerous criminal to safety after both are attacked at a safe house.

Washington signed on weeks ago to play the criminal, and I’ve heard Reynolds, Shia LaBeouf, Taylor Kitsch, Washington’s Unstoppable co-star Chris Pine, Sam Worthington, Garrett Hedlund, Zac Efron, Channing Tatum, Chris Hemsworth and Jake Gyllenhaal are all in contention.  No offer has been made, but it will happen soon as the studio, Washington,  Espinosa and producer Scott Stuber make a decision shortly. Production begins early next year, with Argentina and South Africa among the places being scouted. Safe House becomes the latest must-have role that has prompted meetings, or in a bunch of cases, competitive auditions. The big derby still playing out is David Fincher’s search for a young actress to play the potential career-making role playing complex computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in the Sony Pictures Entertainment adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first installment of a trilogy. Sony drew a slew of young thesps earlier this summer to compete for the Spider-Man role that went to Andrew Garfield, and another competition will be held shortly to find his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson. And before that it was Captain America, a role that went to Chris Evans after a long search. Marvel Studios gets a crowd for every one of its superhero pictures.

It is hardly surprising this is going on. The star landscape is shifting endlessly, and winning the right role can mean everything. That was proven when Robert Downey Jr. pursued Iron Man aggressively, even though he wasn’t initially Marvel’s top choice. Downey won the job in the room, and the role redefined him from a superb actor to a bankable star around whom studios are building big budget movies.

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