×

Kelly, Cage team for true crime tale

'Donnie Darko' director to write and direct indie 'Amicus'

EXCLUSIVE: Writer-director Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko”) has lined up his next movie, a true-crime thriller titled “Amicus” that will star Nicolas Cage as Rodney Smolla, one of the most influential First Amendment scholars of the past two decades.

In addition to writing and directing, Kelly will produce through his Darko Entertainment along with Laura Bickford (“Traffic”) and Mike Nilon, who reps Cage. Darko’s Ted Hamm will exec produce with Will Kopelman.

CAA is handling the sales and packaging of the film, and financing is being secured for a January start date in Atlanta.

Spanning 25 years, indie pic is based on the true story of Lawrence Horn, a former record producer and Motown Records exec who is currently serving a life sentence in prison for hiring Detroit-based hit man James Perry to murder his wife, quadriplegic son and the wealthy family’s overnight nurse at their suburban home in Silver Spring, Maryland. Horn’s son was the victim of medical malpractice and as the result of a subsequent lawsuit, had a trust worth nearly $2 million, which his father stood to inherit in the wake of his death.

Detectives discovered that Perry, who was sentenced to death in 1995 for the brutal crime, used how-to book “Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors” as a guide to execute the murders. The families of the victims went on to file a class-action lawsuit against the Colorado-based publisher Paladin Press.

The attorneys representing the families then hired Smolla, a First Amendment attorney and professor at William & Mary Law School, to consult on the historic case, which took five years to settle amidst a series of shocking and bizarre developments.

Kelly’s next film had been expected to be the contemporary thriller “Corpus Christi” for his Darko Entertainment banner, though the cast never came together and the project remains in development. “Amicus” represents a change of pace from the sci-fi-tinged pics Kelly previously directed, which include “Donnie Darko,” “Southland Tales” and “The Box.” He’s repped by CAA and manager Jennifer Killoran.

Despite appearing in more than 50 movies, Cage has never played a lawyer, though he did produce the 2003 legal drama “The Life of David Gale,” and he also starred in Alex Proyas’ 2009 pic “Knowing,” which Kelly had once been attached to direct. Cage, who can currently be seen in Simon West’s actioner “Stolen,” will next star opposite John Cusack in Emmett/Furla Films’ serial killer thriller “Frozen Ground.” He’s repped by CAA, KLWGN Entertainment and attorney Jacob A. Bloom.

After earning an Oscar nomination for producing Steven Soderbergh’s “Traffic” with Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, Bickford reteamed with the director on his two-part epic “Che.” She recently produced Richard Gere starrer “Arbitrage” and is currently developing an adaptation of Marcal Aquino’s hitman-related novel “The Trespasser” with scribe Bret Easton Ellis.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Yoji Yamada-directed film is to open

    Tokyo Market: Shochiku Launches Horror, Comedy and Mystery Lineup

    Major Japanese studio, Shochiku has the honor of leading off next week’s Tokyo International Film Festival with its “Tora-san, Wish You Were Here.” The film is a revival of a beloved in-house drama franchise, directed by veteran Yoji Yamada, that is set as the event’s opening night gala presentation. Before that, the company has the [...]

  • The Truth

    Singapore Festival to Focus on Asian Excellence for 30th Edition

    For its 30th edition the Singapore International Film Festival has avoided programming novelty and instead focused on assembling excellence – mostly indie titles — from Asia and further afield. The festival, which previously announced local filmmaker Anthony Chen’s second feature “Wet Season” as its opening night gala presentation, announced the balance of its programming on [...]

  • Isabela Moner Dora the Explorer

    Film News Roundup: Isabela Merced Boards Jason Momoa's 'Sweet Girl' for Netflix

    In today’s film news roundup, Isabela Merced get cast opposite Jason Momoa, “Starbright” gets financing and AFM announces its speakers. CASTING Isabela Merced, formerly Isabela Moner, has come on board to portray the daughter of Jason Momoa in his upcoming revenge thriller “Sweet Girl” for Netflix. Momoa will play a devastated man who vows to [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Seeks to Throw Out Gender Pay Gap Lawsuit

    The Walt Disney Co. is seeking to throw out a lawsuit alleging that women employees are paid less than men, arguing that the suit is too sprawling and unwieldy to handle as a class action. Andrus Anderson LLP filed the suit in April, alleging that Disney’s hiring and pay practices have a discriminatory effect on [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    Christian Bale, Matt Damon to Campaign in Lead Actor Category for 'Ford v Ferrari'

    Christian Bale and Matt Damon will both campaign in the lead actor category for awards for their work in Fox’s upcoming “Ford v Ferrari,” Variety has learned. “Ford v Ferrari” follows an eccentric, determined team of American engineers and designers, led by automotive visionary Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his British driver, Ken Miles (Bale), who [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content