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Denzel Washington Circling Dan Gilroy’s Legal Drama ‘Inner City’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Denzel Washington is eyeing the lead role in “Inner City,” a legal drama written and to be directed by Dan Gilroy, Variety has learned.

The project is being billed as a character study in the vein of Paul Newman’s 1982 classic “The Verdict,” and could land two-time Oscar winner Washington back in the awards race. He would play a lawyer dealing with a major change at his company.

According to sources, interest in the project is high, after a summer of lackluster sequels that didn’t necessarily connect at the box office. Several prominent distributors, including Netflix, have been tracking this original story. The script will be sent out around after Labor Day, and is expected to be one of the big sales of the fall.

“Inner City” takes place in Los Angeles, the familiar gritty setting of “Nightcrawler,” which was Gilroy’s directorial debut. That 2014 film, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a troubled crime paparazzo, grossed $32 million domestically on a $8.5 million budget.

Jennifer Fox is producing “Inner City.”

Washington has been Gilroy’s top choice for the role for some time, but the actor didn’t want to make any career decisions until after he had wrapped directing the big-screen adaption of “Fences” for Paramount. When that movie finished earlier this summer, Washington was weighing several other scripts too, including J.C. Chandor’s “Triple Frontier.”

Washington can next been seen in Antoine Fuqua’s remake of “The Magnificent Seven,” which will open this year’s Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 8.

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