Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Ben Affleck is in negotiations to play the lead role in David Fincher‘s Gone Girl, a development that will seal the Fox project pic as Fincher’s next film to direct. In the pic, based on the Gillian Flynn bestseller, Affleck will play a husband whose wife disappears on the day of their fifth anniversary, and all roads point to him as the killer. Fox made a 7-figure deal for the novel last July for Pacific Standard’s Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea, along with Leslie Dixon, to produce. Flynn wrote the first draft of the screenplay and is currently rewriting with Fincher. There is no female lead yet as it looks like Witherspoon is only producing. Fox recently brought on New Regency as a financing partner. Affleck’s casting is interesting because it means Warner Bros is allowing him to push back his next directing and starring project, the adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel Live By Night, which he continues to prep. Shooting on Gone Girl is set to shoot this fall, and the thinking is Affleck will be able to finish up and still get Live By Night done for the end of 2014. I’m hearing that Affleck reached out to Warner Bros’ brass over the Fourth of July holiday, and the studio behind his Oscar-winner Argo made a fast and concerted effort to give him a quick answer and let him do something it didn’t stand to gain from. All this certainly signals that Warner Bros and Affleck plan to be in business together for the long haul, a relationship the studio was keen to preserve especially following the departure of Jeff Robinov, the just-exited former President of Warner Bros Pictures Group with whom Affleck had a “dream relationship”.

The studio had wasted little time setting Affleck’s follow-up to Best Picture Oscar winner Argo, beginning pre-production in May on Live By Night, about a black-sheep son of a police captain who gets involved in escalating levels of organized crime. Affleck is also producing as he did with Argo. Warner Bros acquired Live By Night in April 2012 when it was in galley form for Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran’s Appian Way, which had a pre-existing relationship with Affleck and produces with his Warners-based Pearl Street.

Fincher and Fox had been developing Gone Girl since since January. This is now his next project, ahead of Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea: Captain Nemo. He’s repped by Josh Donen and attorney Craig Jacobson.

Affleck the actor is next up in another Fox pic, Runner Runner, an action drama set in the world of offshore online gambling co-starring Justin Timberlake, Anthony Mackie and Gemma Arterton. It comes out September 27. Affleck’s repped by WME.