Mike Fleming

Despite the laughable claim of exclusivity just now by another outlet, I can report that Deadline’s March 19 scoop about Oliver Stone’s Savages heading to Universal is getting closer, but it’s not closed yet. They are now in exclusive negotiations, but they are still ironing out details. Still, as Deadline told you, Universal will be the distributor when all is done. Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch and Benicio Del Toro are set to star in the adaptation of the Don Winslow bestseller, with a script by Shane Salerno and the author. Salma Hayek is also in talks. Two other studios had been in discussions.

Johnson and Kitsch are set to play Ben and Chon, two best friends who are growers of primo pot in Laguna and who share an unusual relationship with a trippy beauty named O. Not only are they all best friends, she has been lovers with each guy. Their lucrative zen existence is interrupted by a visit from the drug enforcer Lado (Del Toro) who tells them they will have to work for his boss, a Mexican cartel matriarch (the role Hayek is in talks to play). When they refuse, O is kidnapped, the growers are forced to come up with an outrageous ransom which they accumulate by ripping off the matriarch holding their friend hostage.

Stone is right now testing actresses to play O, the role that was going to be played by Jennifer Lawrence until she instead signed on for The Hunger Games lead. I’m hearing names like Olivia Wilde and Abbie Cornish, but Stone might make a discovery. Shooting begins in June.

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