Universal Pictures has acquired the pitch “Bit Players,” and has set Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Duvall to star.
Pic, which has elements of “The Sting,” will be scripted by Scott Rosenberg and Michael Lewis; the latter is best known for writing the books “Liar’s Poker” and “Moneyball.” Brad Jenkel is producing, with Avi Lerner is exec producing.
Story is about a trio of men whose small town in the West is destroyed by a Wall Street crook who has swindled townsfolk out of their pensions. Hoffman is the duped owner of the bank that leaves the town high and dry. Hackman and Duvall will play two of those men who band with Hoffman and head to New York, where they hatch a scheme to get even.
The project reteams Hoffman and Hackman again after “The Runaway Jury,” the first time they have paired onscreen even though Hoffman, Hackman and Duvall were all roommates at one time.
Pic indirectly resulted from rewrite work that Rosenberg did on “The Runaway Jury,” the Gary Fleder-directed pic.
Duvall also had an uncredited role in the Hackman starrer “The Conversation” and they both appeared in “Geronimo: An American Legend.”
Hoffman and Duvall are also reteamed in the upcoming “The Lost City” helmed by Andy Garcia.
Fleder previously directed the Rosenberg-scripted “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead,” and the director turned to his scribe pal to script the scene which the actors do together.
“I’ve led a charmed life, but one day I’m picked up and taken to the Burbank Airport where I fly in a jet with Dustin, stop in Sante Fe to pick up Gene, and we go to New Orleans for the film,” Rosenberg said. “Then Rick Fox of the Lakers gives Dustin three tickets to the game and they bring me, like we’re all buddies. It’s like being asked to sit in with the Stones, because they are two of the great actors. I learn they had been roommates in the ’60s in New York City and that Duvall was their third buddy. From that moment on, I became obsessed with trying to come up with an idea that would allow me to write a movie for them to do together.”
Rosenberg mentioned it to Jenkel, who works for Lerner’s Millennium Films. Jenkel came up with the Wall Street angle, and they sought out Lewis because of his expertise with Wall Street issues. CAA held an auction, and U, led by prexy Scott Stuber, made the deal.
“The exciting part was not only the chance to work with those actors, but an emotional story about people working their whole lives so they can take it easy when the get older, only to find that their faith in the system has been violated,” Stuber said.
Rosenberg will start writing immediately. He’s also been scripting the CGI pic “Rex Havoc” for DreamWorks, remakes of “The Sentinel” for Universal and “Let’s Get Harry” for Sony.