Thesp to appear in Asger Leth-directed drama

Universal Pictures has set Josh Brolin to star in “Cartel,” the Asger Leth-directed drama that will begin shooting January in Mexico City. Brolin takes the role Sean Penn was to perform until he left the project in June to take a movie business sabbatical for personal reasons.

Brian Grazer is producing the Peter Craig-scripted drama for Imagine Entertainment.

Brolin will play a man on a mission to protect his son after his wife is brutally murdered in the gritty world of Mexican drug cartels.

The drama is inspired by the 1993 Italian film “La scorta,” which followed four cops’ struggle to guard a special prosecutor trying to bring mob bosses to justice.

“Cartel” was one of several films that Penn abruptly departed in June.

Robert Stone and Webster Stone will exec produce “Cartel.” Leth makes his dramatic feature directing debut after helming the 2006 documentary “Ghosts of Cite Soleil.”

Brolin recently wrapped “Jonah Hex” for Warner Bros., and up next is the Oliver Stone-directed “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps” for Fox.

He’s repped by WME.

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