Nearly four decades into his acting career, Denzel Washington remains one of the industry's premier talents and an audience favorite. He's an extremely reliable box office draw, and that shouldn't change with the arrival of this fall's The Magnificent Seven remake, which is one of the most anticipated projects of the season. And with his directorial effort Fences thought to be a leading Oscar contender, 2016 should be a fruitful year for the actor.
Washington is hoping to keep his prolonged hot streak going by teaming up with Nightcrawler writer/director Dan Gilroy on a new legal drama called Inner City. The film first made headlines over the summer, with Gilroy looking to sell the film to a distributor in the near future. It would appear that he now has a studio on board and Inner City is on the fast track to starting production.
According to Deadline, Sony Pictures has entered final negotiations for the Inner City rights, with Gilroy and Washington locked in as part of the deal. The plan is for principal photography to commence in March 2017. Cross Creek Pictures will serve as co-financers. The report makes note that the budget is below $40 million. Its cost effectiveness was a reason why many studios were interested, following a summer that saw numerous expensive tentpoles come up short. With a team of Washington and Gilroy, Inner City should prove to be very profitable.
In the film, Washington will star as a "hard-nosed liberal lawyer" named Roman J. Israel. His partner suffers a heart attack, and Israel is forced into the role of the firm's front man. Things heat up when Roman realizes that some of the firm's practices have directly conflicted with his personal values of aiding the poor and dispossessed, which causes him to have a crisis. Previously, the plot of Inner City was favorably compared to the Paul Newman vehicle The Verdict, which was nominated for five Oscars in 1982. From the sound of it, Inner City should be an excellent opportunity for Washington to return to his dramatic roots, giving him a meaty part to bite into.
With the film so early in development, a release date has not been set yet, but chances are Sony will want to position Inner City as an awards player for either next year or 2018 (depending on the filming schedule and how fast Gilroy can complete it). Washington, of course, is no stranger to the Academy, having won two trophies in his storied career. And while Nightcrawler came up short in a few categories back in 2014 (most notably Best Actor for Jake Gyllenhaal), Gilroy secured his first nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The talent behind Inner City is undeniable, so Sony must feel confident in its potential quality.
The next step for the filmmakers will be to round out the supporting cast, and they shouldn't have any trouble attracting top tier actors. There are still six months to go until shooting starts (as of this writing), but Gilroy probably won't waste any time in putting the pieces in place. Cinephiles already had several intriguing works to look forward to in 2017, and there may be one more to add to the growing list.
We'll keep you updated on Inner City as more information becomes available.