Thornton, Berry star in Lionsgate legal drama

John Singleton will direct Lionsgate’s legal drama “Tulia,” starring Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton.

Lionsgate’s aiming the long-in-development project for a late fall shoot. Carl Franklin had been attached to direct but departed earlier this year.

Pic centers on a lawyer’s efforts to expose a rash of drug convictions in rural Tulia, Texas, in 1999. It’s an adaptation of the Nate Blakeslee book “Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town,” in which 10% of the black population of Tulia was incarcerated.

The arrests did not produce drugs or money, causing attorneys and civil-rights groups to denounce the bust as racial profiling. The undercover agent who conducted the bust was indicted on perjury charges; most of the 46 arrestees were eventually pardoned by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Karen Croner wrote the script for “Tulia,” which is being produced by Mike Tollin, Berry and manager Vince Cirrincione, Sharla Sumpter and Singleton’s producing partner Paul Hall.

Singleton most recently directed “Four Brothers” for Paramount.

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