Mike Fleming

BREAKING: In a high-six-figure deal, Warner Bros has acquired The Samurai, a spec script that will be the next film directed by Warrior helmer Gavin O’Connor. The intention is to get it into production quickly, because O’Connor is also working on a stage play adaptation of The Hustler, the Walter Tevis novel that was turned into the 1961 pool hustler film that starred Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. O’Connor secured the rights from the author’s estate and Fox and is writing the stage play with his Warrior co-writer Anthony Tambackis. They are deep into it, and while they’ve not yet taken the play out for financing, O’Connor is eyeing a Broadway bow and said he’s got a commitment from Renee Zellweger to play Sarah Packard, the companion of Fast Eddie Felson who was played in the film by Piper Laurie.

As for The Samurai, O’Connor wrote the spec with Michael J. Wilson. The action adventure is about a rogue assassin named Townes Joyce, who breaks out of a Texas jail that puts him on the run from an international manhunt. Along the way, he gets involved with a woman and her child, and they go along for a ride that spans Costa Rica, Colombia, Paris and back to the U.S. O’Connor intends to make this his film follow-up to Warrior, which stars Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte. I’m not sure if it’s because national audiences weren’t turned on to the mixed martial arts-heavy marketing campaign, but I thought the film was a lot better than is reflected in the $15 million it has grossed worldwide so far since its release. O’Connor also directed Pride and Glory, Miracle and Tumbleweeds. He’s repped by CAA.