Jack O’Connell is in final negotiations to star in the thriller Section 6 for Universal Pictures. This is the pic for which the studio won a bidding war in October 2013 for the spec script written by Aaron Berg, picking it up for seven figures in a late-night deal with no attachments. It revolves around the origins of MI6, the British intelligence agency founded during World War I. Marc Platt is producing alongside Adam Siegel for Marc Platt Productions, and Lawrence Grey will produce for Grey Matter Productions. Universal’s EVP Production Jon Mone and director of development Sara Scott will oversee for the studio. O’Connell just wrapped production on Unbroken, in which he starred as Olympics hero and WWII POW Louis Zamperini for Angelina Jolie. He’s next up in 300: Rise Of An Empire and the indie Starred Up. He also starred in 71, the thriller based on the troubles in Ireland that just screened in competition at Berlin. He is repped by CAA and attorney Robert Offer and Conway van Gelder Grant in the UK. The Wrap reported the story first.
Tribeca Film has acquired North American rights to Scottish director David Mackenzie’s prison drama Starred Up, which stars Jack O’Connell who is making his name quickly known after also landing the lead role as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. O’Connell stars in this one with Ben Mendelsohn and Homeland‘s Rupert Friend, and a 2014 U.S. theatrical release is planned for the pic, which played Telluride and Toronto this fall festival season. O’Connell stars as ultra-violent 19-year-old Eric, who is prematurely transferred to the same adult prison facility as his estranged father (Mendelsohn). Eric is approached by a volunteer psychotherapist (Friend) who runs an anger management group for prisoners. Torn between gang politics, prison corruption, and a glimmer of something better, Eric finds himself in a fight for his life. Independent, who worked with Mackenzie on his Berlin Silver Bear winner Hallam Foe, is repping international sales at AFM. The deal was negotiated for Tribeca Film by Alison Diviney, Acquisitions Manager, and Independent’s Abigail Walsh on behalf of the filmmakers. Fox Searchlight will release the film in the UK in spring 2014.
20th Century Fox is gathering steam on the reboot of Marvel’s Fantastic Four that will be helmed by Chronicle director Josh Trank. It has long been rumored that Fruitvale Station‘s Michael B. Jordan is likely to play the flammable Johnny “Human Torch” Storm, and the names I’m hearing for the flexible genius Reed Richards are Jack O’Connell (he’s playing Lou Zamperini in Angelina Jolie-directed Unbroken), Divergent‘s Miles Teller, and Game Of Thrones‘ Kit Harington. For the role of Sue Storm, the names are The Host’s Saoirse Ronan, 127 Hours‘ Kate Mara and The Wolf Of Wall Street‘s Margot Robbie. No decisions have been made yet, per the studio. Simon Kinberg is doing a rewrite. Stay tuned.
Jack O’Connell was one of three young actors who had recently tested for the role of the young Louis Zamperini in Unbroken, the Angelina Jolie-directed biopic that Universal has just dated for Christmas 2014. O’Connell has won the part and will play Zamperini from the time he was a wunderkind member of the USA track team that competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics to his survival of a harrowing plane crash in the Pacific Ocean during WWII through 47 days adrift in a life raft to becoming a POW in a Japanese prison camp. The film is based on the New York Times bestseller Unbroken: A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, And Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, and production is set to start in September. O’Connell is starring in the sequel 300: Rise Of An Empire that is due out next March, and his credits include This Is England, Eden Lake, Harry Brown and TV’s Skins. He is repped by CAA in the U.S. and Conway van Gelder Grant in the UK.
Related: Angelina Jolie To Direct ‘Unbroken’
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures, Walden Media and director Angelina Jolie are getting closer to the start line on Unbroken, the incredible story of Louis Zamperini based on Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling book. I’m hearing that three young actors — Alexander Dreymon (Blood Ransom), 300: Rise Of An Empire co-star Jack O’Connell and Chronicle and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 star Dane DeHaan — are screen-testing to play Zamperini as a young man. I don’t know that Jolie won’t widen her short list — she has met with reams of young actors already to get to this point — but I do believe this has the potential to be a career-making job. The actor will play Zamperini from the time he was a wunderkind member of the American track team that competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, to his survival of a harrowing plane crash on the water, to becoming a POW in a Japanese prison camp during WWII. Zamperini, who has shown an iron will in dealing with adversity, turned 96 in January and the emergence of this short list is good news because it means he hopefully will get to see the film. It is one that Universal first developed in 1956 when it was to star Tony Curtis, right after Spartacus. Matthew Baer and Erwin Stoff are producing and Mick Garris is exec producer.
Jolie signed on last December to make this her second film as director after In The Land Of Blood And Honey. She had campaigned hard for the job against other directors who sparked to Hillenbrand’s book. I spoke to her at the time and she was completely dialed into the story and how she wanted to tell it. Since then, Joel and Ethan Coen rewrote a script that had been penned by Gladiator and Les Miserables co-writer William Nicholson, who rewrote an earlier draft by Richard LaGravanese, The book has now been on The New York Times Bestseller List for two and a half years, which is the fifth-longest a book has stayed there.