Actors set for 'Great Debaters'

Forest Whitaker will star alongside Denzel Washington in “The Great Debaters,” a fact-based drama that Washington will direct next month in Louisiana for the Weinstein Co.

Oprah Winfrey and Kate Forte are producing through Harpo Films, along with Todd Black and Joe Roth.

Whitaker’s deal is expected to be wrapped up shortly.

Washington, who has long developed the project as a directing vehicle, recently decided to play a key supporting role, as he did in his directorial debut, “Antwone Fisher.” He’ll play a volatile coach who molds a group of students from a small college in East Texas into an elite debate team that challenges Harvard’s championship squad in the 1930s.

Robert Eisele penned the script, inspired by a true story.

Whitaker will play the father of one of the students, who finds himself competing with the debate coach for the loyalties of his son.

Washington most recently wrapped “American Gangster,” starring with Russell Crowe for director Ridley Scott in the Universal/Imagine drama.

“The Great Debaters” is Whitaker’s second high-profile alignment since he won the Oscar for “The Last King of Scotland.” He recently made a deal to join Keanu Reeves in “The Night Watchman,” the James Ellroy-scripted drama that David Ayer will direct for Fox Searchlight and New Regency. That pic will lense next month.

He is currently shooting the Rowan Woods-directed indie “Winged Creatures.”Whitaker is repped by WMA and the Collective and Washington by ICM.

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