McConaughey near ‘Amistad’

Matthew McConaughey is in talks with Steven Spielberg to star in DreamWorks’ “Amistad,” the project that marks the filmmaker’s first directorial effort for his company and his next film after the “Jurassic Park” sequel “The Lost World.”

The actor was recently set for Richard Linklater’s “Newton Boys,” but attempts to rework his schedule are under way so he can star in DreamWorks’ historical drama. McConaughey is currently at work with Robert Zemeckis on Warner Bros.’ “Contact,” which wraps in February. McConaughey was to start “Newton Boys” after that, but the film is now expected to be pushed back from April to accommodate his turn in “Amistad.” The Spielberg film is to begin filming in February. Linklater gave McCon-aughey his start with the cult favorite “Dazed and Confused.”

“Amistad” is about a mutiny on an African slave ship that occurred in 1839. The story involves the captives’ attempts to sail home, and their capture off the Atlantic coast.

Adams chronicle

McConaughey would play John Quincy Adams, who defends them in court. It would mark the second time that McConaughey would be cast as a lawyer, having portrayed an attorney in “A Time to Kill.” Spielberg had previously gone out to Dustin Hoffman, but Hoffman is working with Barry Levinson on back-to-back projects “Wag the Dog” and “Sphere.”

The “Amistad” script was written by David Franzoni and rewritten by Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”). Debbie Allen is producing, with DreamWorks Pictures co-heads Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald serving as execu-tive producers.

DreamWorks will produce in association with HBO Pictures, and the project will be released theatrically by DreamWorks. McConaughey is repped by Creative Artists Agency.

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