Tom Hardy eyed to star in adaptation of Dennis Lehane novel

With Neil Burger exiting to direct “Divergent,” Fox Searchlight and Chernin Entertainment are now in negotiations with “Bullhead” helmer Michael R. Roskam to direct the movie “Animal Rescue,” based on the short story by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote the script.

Execs have targeted top talent for the lead role, with noted animal lover Tom Hardy currently being eyed to star. “Animal Rescue” is one of several offers Hardy is weighing, and while it may not be as flashy as the other projects vying for the “Dark Knight Rises” star, the chance to recite Lehane’s rich dialogue and work with up-and-coming director Roskam is likely an enticing prospect.

Fox Searchlight and Chernin Entertainment had no comment.

Crime drama follows a lonely Boston bartender who rescues a puppy from a garbage can and becomes the target of the dog’s abusive and mentally unstable former owner, while simultaneously getting caught in the middle of a criminal conspiracy playing out in his mob-controlled bar.

Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark and Jenno Topping are producing with Mike Larocca. Production is tentatively skedded to start early next year.

Roskam’s Belgian crime drama “Bullhead” was nominated for the foreign language Oscar last year and helped launch star Matthias Schoenaerts’ budding Hollywood career. He was inundated by offers following the Oscars but of all the scripts sent to him, Lehane’s “Animal Rescue” was the one he was most excited about. Roskam is also developing “The Tiger” with Focus Features and Brad Pitt’s Plan B shingle. He’s attached to direct from a script by Guillermo Arriaga (“Babel”), who adapted the book by John Vaillant. Additionally, Roskam is writing and attached to direct HBO pilot “Buda Bridge.”

Lehane is the Boston-based author best known for writing the novels “Mystic River,” “Gone Baby Gone” and “Shutter Island.” Lehane’s latest novel, “Live By Night,” is in development at Warner Bros., with Ben Affleck attached to write, direct, produce and topline.

Chernin Entertainment recently wrapped Paul Feig’s cop comedy “The Heat” starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, and is currently prepping “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” with director Matt Reeves.

Roskam is repped by UTA, Anonymous Content and attorney attorney Alan Wertheimer.

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