Mike Fleming

Warner Bros is working on not one but two high-profile films about the illegal poaching and trafficking in endangered animals around the world. Both projects are being produced by Tobey Maguire‘s Material Pictures, Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Appian Way and Tom Hardy‘s Executive Options. I don’t know if both of these projects get made, but at a time when Hollywood studios are preoccupied with pretend crises like zombies and vampires, bravo for a major to step up and try to weave in a global problem like ivory trafficking into a drama.

The first project is being written by Up In The Air co-writer Sheldon Turner as a star vehicle for Hardy, based on an idea by the Dark Knight Rises and Warrior star. The untitled film is set in Africa and the aim is for Hardy to play a former Special Forces soldier who signs on with a friend to work in the bush, training rangers to fight off the poachers decimating the rhino and elephant populations in Zimbabwe. The soldier falls in love with the land, and the animals he is trying to save. Given his skill set, this spells bad news for the poachers. Also producing is Dean Baker, who is Hardy’s producing partner, and Paul Grey, along with Hardy, Maguire and DiCaprio. Hardy is working with Turner and producers Jennifer Klein and Dave Bartis on Everest, the Sony film that Doug Liman intends to direct, with Hardy playing British climber George Mallory and his attempts to become the first man to scale Everest and make it back alive. 

The second film is also untitled and is best described as a Traffic-like dissection of the trafficking industry that exploits the global market for illicit parts from slain animals that are used as aphrodisiacs and other ridiculous purposes. This film might involve Maguire, DiCaprio and Hardy in onscreen roles. Like the Stephen Gaghan-scripted and Steven Soderbergh-directed drug saga Traffic, this is planned as a multi-stranded storyline that traces the supply and demand for animals slain, stripped and sold for fortunes in places like China. Hardy got involved with this project after finding that his interests aligned with DiCaprio and Maguire. At that point, the three decided to team up to work together on both projects.

There is no writer on the second film, but the studio feels it is rich terrain and gets to the heart of an illicit industry by telling stories from several perspectives. They range from the back-room dealings of corrupt executives, to a portrait of the life of a poacher, to others involved in the underbelly of a global scourge that occurs not only in the jungles but also the oceans, where illegal shark fishing runs rampant. On the latter project, how long before someone at Warner Bros says, “Get me Gaghan on line one!”

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