Joel Schumacher has dropped out of directing Warner Bros.’ courtroom thriller “The Runaway Jury,” and Sean Connery is no longer attached to the project, which is based on John Grisham’s bestselling book, sources said.

Ed Norton, who was nominated for an Academy Award this year, is unconditional pay-or-play on the picture. The studio intends to find a new director and move forward on the project. It had targeted a fall start.

Warner Bros. has every reason to keep moving on “Runaway Jury”: It spent a little over $8 million for the book last summer.

It’s not completely clear why Schumacher fell out of the project. However, for the last couple of weeks it was known that Connery was vacillating on committing to the project. Two weeks ago, the actor had indicated to other studios that he was unlikely to do “Runaway Jury” and was available for other projects.

Paramount has long had its eye on Connery for “The Quiet American,” and 20th Century Fox has been anxious to get moving on “Entrapment,” which Connery would star in and produce from a Ron Bass script. But the latter project is about six months away.

Schumacher recently told friends that he had second thoughts about the subject matter and the timing of the film in light of current events. The story revolves around a landmark tobacco case in Biloxi, Miss., where the plaintiff is awarded damages after a couple members of the jury manipulate the outcome.

Schumacher has previously directed two films based on Grisham works for Warner Bros: “A Time to Kill” and “The Client.”

It’s not clear what Schumacher’s plans are. He has been out of the country promoting “Batman & Robin” over-seas, and on vacation. Connery’s CAA reps did not return calls.

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