Indie 'Switch' based on Elmore Leonard book

Fresh off his critically acclaimed turn in Sundance’s audience award winner “The Surrogate,” John Hawkes has committed to star opposite Yasiin Bey in the Elmore Leonard adaptation “Switch,” from writer-director Dan Schechter (“Supporting Characters”).

The crime drama will serve as a prequel to Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown,” with Hawkes and Bey playing younger versions of Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson’s respective characters Louis Gara and Ordell Robbie, who appear in Leonard’s novel “Rum Punch.”

Set 15 years before the events in “Jackie Brown,” story follows career criminals Ordell and Louis as they team up to kidnap Mickey Dawson, the wife of a corrupt Detroit real estate developer. When the husband refuses to pay the ransom for his wife’s return, the ex-cons are forced to reconceive their plan, and the angry housewife uses the duo to get her revenge.

The Gotham Group’s Ellen Goldsmith-Vein and Lee Stollman will produce with Michael Siegel (“Be Cool”) and Leonard, while Jim Garavente will exec produce. Production is skedded to start in May.

Schechter rolled the dice in adapting Leonard’s novel on spec, without any permissions cleared in advance. He sent his finished screenplay to Siegel, Leonard’s longtime rep, to share with the author. After reading the script, Leonard and Siegel granted the young filmmaker rights to make the movie, and came on board as producers.

Hawkes’ perf as disabled poet Mark O’Brien in “Surrogate” prompted Fox Searchlight to purchase the Ben Lewin-directed pic for $6 million at Sundance. After earning an Oscar nom for his turn as a Southern criminal in “Winter’s Bone,” Hawkes has appeared in “Contagion” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” for which he’s nominated for a Spirit Award. Thesp recently wrapped production on Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.”

Bey, who recently had a recurring role on Showtime’s “Dexter,” previously starred in “The Italian Job” and “Something the Lord Made,” which credited him as Mos Def.

Gotham’s other producing credits include Paramount’s “The Spiderwick Chronicles” and Lionsgate’s “Abduction,” while Siegel serves as an exec producer on DreamWorks Animation’s upcoming pic “Rise of the Guardians.”

Hawkes is repped by Innovative Artists, Thruline Entertainment and attorney Todd Rubenstein, while Brookside Artist Management reps Bey. Schechter is repped by WME and The Gotham Group.

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