Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Savages, the Oliver Stone-directed adaptation of the Don Winslow novel, is zeroing in on a distribution deal. Universal is in pole position with two others in the running. Along with Aaron Johnson, Stone is in talks with Taylor Kitsch to play the two Laguna-based pot growers arm-twisted into working for a Mexican cartel when they kidnap O, the free spirited best friend of the growers. Kitsch, best known for Friday Night Lights and a showy small role as Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, just starred in Universal’s Battleship after completing the title role in Disney’s John Carter of Mars. The distribution situation should be resolved within the next week, but I’m hearing Universal will wind up with the picture.

Aside from Johnson and Kitsch, I’ve heard Stone is looking at Salma Hayek to play the cartel matriarch, an iron-fisted beauty who becomes intrigued and practically maternal over the kidnapped gal. But business is business, and the drug kingpin is suddenly plagued by a problem: someone is ripping off her drug shipments. What she doesn’t know is it’s the guys she’s trying to muscle. Kitsch plays Chon, an iron-hard former operative who is a remorseless killer and seems to only have room in his heart for his growing partner and O. Jennifer Lawrence has fallen out of the O role because of her commitment to The Hunger Game, and Stone is looking at candidates like Olivia Wilde, as the director works on honing the script written by Shane Salerno and Winslow.