Mike Fleming

Warner Bros is going to the mattresses on mobster movies. The studio has given the green light to Gangster Squad, the Will Beall-scripted crime drama that will be directed by Zombieland helmer Ruben Fleischer. The linchpin of the film is Los Angeles mobster Mickey Cohen, and the studio is formally offering the role to Sean Penn. Ryan Gosling is getting the offer to play one of two cops who try to bring him down. Warner Bros has been sweet on Penn for some time for a role that could be as memorable a gangster turn as when Robert De Niro played Al Capone in The Untouchables. Cohen, a former boxer who became an associate of Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, was a charismatic figure who caroused around town with a gorgeous girl on his arm, and often with his attractive etiquette coach at his side. He once even took part in a Life Magazine profile. But he was also considered a sociopath whose vices included sex and extortion, and  whose mood could darken on a dime. When innocent people got hurt, law enforcement hardened to the fact he had to be stopped. The drama, based on a series of articles by Paul Lieberman, is the fact-based tale of the crime fighting exploits of a squad of elite Los Angeles officers in the 1940s charged with stopping him and other mobsters. Screenwriter Beall is a former South Central Los Angeles cop who wrote the novel L.A. Rex. Dan Lin and Kevin McCormick are producing.

Speaking of Capone, Warner Bros has a project on his formative years, as well. Cicero, scripted by Walon Green, is also building momentum at the studio. I’ve heard there is interest from David Yates as a possible rebound project when he completes work on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, his fourth Potter pic. Studio maintains no discussions have happened yet.

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