Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: While the acquisitions landscape is showing signs of that pre-Cannes dullness, a big deal is in the works for Megan Ellison and her Annapurna Pictures to fully fund American Bullshit, the drama that has David O Russell attached to direct, with Christian Bale also attached and Bradley Cooper in talks. The Eric Singer-scripted drama–which not surprisingly will get a different title–is about the 70s FBI sting operation Abscam that took down a bunch of U.S. congressmen. It is being produced by Charles Roven and Richard Suckle through Atlas Entertainment. Sony Pictures is the likely distributor; Atlas developed the film there. The studio was always looking for a partner, but Ellison evidently has decided to take all the risk and fund a budget I’m told is in the mid-$30 million to $40 million range. The hope is to close a deal and start production in January, but deals have to be made with talent and Russell has several possible next projects, including the Warner Bros Colombian hostage rescue pic The Mission that has the eye of Brad Pitt.

You might remember Deadline wrote about the project after Russell’s camp initially denied he was involved (I stupidly held it), and then his name started surfacing in trade reports and I tried to decipher who was bullshitting whom. Deadline revealed then that the potential star was Bale, who won an Oscar in the Russell-directed The Fighter. Russell later confirmed to me that he was in discussions to reunite with the actor, but that this was only one of several projects he was considering. Now I’m hearing that Cooper is also part of the package that is being sewn up by CAA. This is starting to look real.

The deal isn’t done yet but it will bring It brings another topical pricey project to Annapurna, and maybe a Cannes warmup for Ellison. Last May, she seemed to be in the center of all the big deals. That included the Kathryn Bigelow-directed Mark Boal-scripted drama about the Navy SEAL Team 6′s long and ultimately successful hunt for 9/11 mastermind and Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, which Ellison placed at Sony Pictures; a massive deal in the $20 million range for the rights to turn The Terminator into two features that would complete the James Cameron-created franchise; a distribution deal with The Weinstein Company for the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed drama on a man who creates a religion in the 1950s and soon is treated as a deity when it takes off; and another Harvey Weinstein deal to distribute the John Hillcoat-directed The Wettest County in the World, which is now called Lawless.