Affleck, Schwimmer to star; Herzog to direct

Director Zak Penn will reprise the impromptu style he used in “Incident at Loch Ness” for a comic feature set around an international poker tournament.

Ben Affleck, David Schwimmer, William H. Macy, Richard Kind and German director Werner Herzog will star. Pic will shoot in February at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.

The film will be produced and financed by Insomnia Entertainment, a venture hatched last fall in part to make films that promote casino gaming. Insomnia is backed by Station Casino chairman Frank Fertitta and vice chairman Lorenzo Fertitta, along with Golden Nugget owners Tim Poster and Tom Breitling. The fifth partner is Trent Othick, who runs the company and will produce with Matt Bierman and Gary Marcus. Lance Stockton is co-producer.

Penn, whose directing debut “Incident at Loch Ness” is rolling out slowly in theaters, has played poker every week since high school. He has drawn cards with each member of his cast except Macy, who starred in the gaming-themed “The Cooler” but isn’t a gambler. Pic was proposed at one of those poker games by Bierman, and they found an enthusiastic backer in Insomnia.

“It is the perfect project for our company,” Othick said. “We know that poker is a fascinating, quirky, high-stakes world, and Zak has knowledge of the game and the sense of humor to capture it.”

Penn said the film was inspired by Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries and Larry David’s improvised HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

He will present each cast member with a fully fleshed-out character and then work with them to form the basis for what will be mostly improvised scenes. “The biggest problem the cast and I will face is that we will lose all of our fees playing cards while staying at the hotel,” Penn said.

Penn said he’ll enlist other card-playing actors to take part in the ensemble.

He plans to keep the budget under $10 million. A studio may be secured before shooting begins, but that’s not necessary since Insomnia is putting the necessary chips on the table.

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