Sam Rockwell enters final negotiations to portray an attorney in The Ballad of Richard Jewell. Based on the true story of the 1996 Olympics bombing (where security guard Richard Jewell was a falsely-accused suspect), the drama has been in development for a number of years, and was at one point going to serve as a reunion for Wolf of Wall Street co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill. After being passed over by multiple directors such as Paul Greengrass and Ezra Edelman, The Ballad of Richard Jewell finally got back on track in April, when Clint Eastwood (who initially circled the project in 2015) signed on to helm.
Originally, The Ballad of Richard Jewell was set up at 20th Century Fox, but following the completing of the Disney/Fox acquisition, the film was dropped and found a new home at Warner Bros. (a studio with a long and successful history with Eastwood). With all that settled, the next order of business is to nail down the cast, and now a prominent actor has come on board.
According to Variety, Rockwell is closing in on a deal to play the attorney who defends Jewell during the investigation. This was the part DiCaprio was eyeing several years ago, but now word is both he and Hill will be producers and not appear in front of the cameras. Jewell hasn't been cast yet, but that will likely happen in the near future.
As disappointing as it is that DiCaprio and Hill won't get an opportunity to tap into their onscreen chemistry on Richard Jewell, it's hard to be too upset at Rockwell's casting. After making a name for himself as a fan-favorite character actor with turns in films as diverse as Galaxy Quest, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and Moon, he's seen his profile increase over the last few years. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and was nominated in that category again last year for Vice. Rockwell is a strong actor who can disappear into his roles, and he should be as compelling as ever working alongside Eastwood. If everything breaks right, Rockwell might find himself in the awards discussion again.
There's no word on when The Ballad of Richard Jewell will begin production, but the pieces seem to be falling into place relatively quickly, so it's possible Eastwood starts shooting soon. The Hollywood icon is renowned for his ability - even at his advanced age - to complete films at a fast pace, meaning there's a chance The Ballad of Richard Jewell could be ready for a premiere later this year. WB has a couple of movies on their upcoming slate that read on-paper as legitimate Oscar players, but if they're confident about what Eastwood has in store, they'll try to find a spot for it.