As part of his career renaissance, Ben Affleck established himself as one of the premier directors in all of Hollywood, impressing many with his works Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Best Picture winner Argo. He hopes to continue that hot streak when his adaptation of Live by Night hits theaters in January 2017 (with an expected December 2016 Oscar qualifying run beforehand), and his prowess behind the camera helped him land the directing gig for the DC Extended Universe’s standalone Batman movie that’s currently in development.
While Affleck is very much involved with the blossoming DCEU with multiple responsibilities (including acting in and producing Justice League), he’s still finding time on his schedule to take on other, non-comic book related projects. Case in point: he’s now become attached to helm an adaptation of the Agatha Christie play Witness for the Prosecution.
The news comes courtesy of THR, who say Affleck is currently in talks with Fox (who worked with Affleck on David Fincher’s Gone Girl) to direct and star in the film. Christopher Keyser, best known for his roles on TV series like Tyrant and Party of Five, is set to write the script. Affleck is producing, alongside Jennifer Todd, Matt Damon, and Christie’s estate. This will be the second time the story is brought to the big screen; Billy Wilder’s 1957 version received much critical acclaim and earned six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.
For those not in the know, Witness for the Prosecution is about a lawyer who has to defend his client during a murder trial that has one surprise after another. Being a twisty crime drama, the material should fit well in Affleck’s wheelhouse as a filmmaker, as this is a genre he has much experience in. It’s unknown which role he would take, but it’s plausible the 44-year old would portray the client Leonard Vole, who was played by the then 43-year old Tyrone Power in the original. Depending on how Affleck approaches the story, he potentially could star as the veteran lawyer Sir Wilfried Roberts (Charles Laughton in the 1957 film).
At this point, there’s no timetable in place for production on the film, and it will obviously be dependent on when Affleck is free. Justice League is still filming, and Affleck will have to embark on the press tour for the anticipated superhero movie prior to its release next fall. It also remains to be seen when Batman is eyeing to come out, and that will be a top priority for Warner Bros. Moviegoers shouldn’t expect Witness for the Prosecution until 2018 at the earliest, possibly 2019 as Affleck works his way through his other obligations. Still, he has to feel confident he’ll be able to make the film, or else he wouldn’t sign on.
Remaking a classic work is always a risky proposition, and sometimes the results are not worth the effort (see: this year’s Ben-Hur). However, Affleck deserves the benefit of the doubt for now. His track record is pretty spotless when it comes to directing, and over the past handful of years, he has selected some quality projects to work on. Living up to the legacy of the original Witness for the Prosecution will be a challenge, but Affleck hasn’t backed down from tough tasks before.
We’ll keep you updated on Witness for the Prosecution as more information becomes available.