Macdonald to direct ‘State of Play’

Pitt to star in adaptation of British miniseries

Universal Pictures has set “The Last King of Scotland” helmer Kevin Macdonald to direct “State of Play,” the Americanized version of the acclaimed British miniseries that will star Brad Pitt. Scripted by Matthew Michael Carnahan, the film is slated to shoot in November.

A congressman’s mistress is killed, and a team of investigative reporters secretly work with a police detective to solve the murder. Pitt will play a reporter who was once close to the congressman but now heads an investigation that leads to the highest levels of government and industry. Pitt aligned with the project last year (Daily Variety, July 27).

Andrew Hauptman will produce, and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner have joined as producers as well. Paul Abbott, who wrote the original miniseries, will be exec producer.

Macdonald sparked to “State of Play” because it married fiction with the topical subject of journalism and politics.

“I was absolutely hooked on the six-hour TV drama, and I know it’s a hard act to follow, but I wanted to do something that tackles the way we as a society in America and Europe learn what’s going on, and how much we can trust newspapers and the nightly news,” Macdonald told Daily Variety. “This asks questions of how independent the press is, how much real investigating is conducted, and how much is taken on faith from lobbyists or PR sheets. The character played by Brad represents the old world journalist, the shining knight who is after the truth.”

“Scotland” marked the first dramatic outing for Macdonald, director of the Oscar-winning 1999 documentary “One Day in September,” about the terrorist siege and slaughter of the Israeli Olympic Team at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Macdonald also directed the docu “Touching the Void” and just completed “My Enemy’s Enemy,” an investigation into how the CIA protected Klaus Barbie and other Nazi war criminals in Latin America, under the guise they could help battle communism. That film was bought for North America by the Weinstein Co.

Macdonald, who has been working with Carnahan on a new draft, passed muster with Pitt not only because the actor liked his docu “Touching the Void” and “The Last King of Scotland,” but also because Macdonald has been working with Pitt’s Plan B to develop “True Story” at Paramount.

That film is an adaptation of a memoir by Michael Finkel, a New York Times writer who was disgraced when he faked a story about child slave labor in Africa, and then tried to redeem himself by cultivating a dialogue with a murderer who’d used the journalist’s identity before he was arrested.

Pitt, who will next be seen in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” just wrapped “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

Macdonald is repped by Endeavor.

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