NEW YORK — Edward Norton has enlisted to join director Gregory Hoblit in “Hart’s War,” MGM’s adaptation of John Katzenbach’s World War II novel. Shooting will begin this January in Prague.
It’s the first pairing between thesp and director since “Primal Fear,” which garnered Norton, then a newcomer, an Oscar nomination and graduated Hoblit from TV dramas like “NYPD Blue” to features.
In “Hart’s War,” Norton will play Tommy Hart, an American who gets shot down over Europe and winds up in a POW camp. A law student before enlisting, Hart defends a black prisoner accused of murdering a fellow soldier, a racist who is suspected of killing the only other black in the camp.
The case transfixes the Germans, which is convenient because the Americans are using it as a diversion while attempting to escape. Katzenbach’s novel is based on an incident in the life of his father, former U.S. attorney general Nicholas Katzenbach.
“This has the potential to be ‘A Few Good Men’ meets ‘The Great Escape,’ and the idea of reteaming Edward and Greg Hoblit in a story that has so many elements of truth was just an unbelievable opportunity for us,” said MGM president Michael Nathanson.
The film is being produced by David Ladd and David Foster, who produced a film of Katzenbach’s novel “The Mean Season.” Though several writers worked on the script, the most recent was Terry George (“In the Name of the Father”), with Billy Ray (“Stuart Little”) working on a rewrite.
Foster said Ray is finishing his rewrite and that other roles will be cast quickly. His producing partner Ladd is off scouting locations in Prague.
Production on the film should be finished with enough time to spare for looping and mixing before a possible actor’s strike after contracts expire May 31.
The film becomes the second major WWII tale for MGM this year, which is weeks from starting production on “Windtalkers,” the John Woo-directed drama starring Nicolas Cage and Christian Slater.
Norton, who is currently shooting “The Score” with Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando for Mandalay, is repped by Endeavor. Hoblit, whose last project was “Frequency,” is repped by William Morris.