American Gangster, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. American Ganster Movie, 2007

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January 19, 2007: Washington says Crowe is just a 'softy at heart'
August 22, 2006: Chiwetel Ejiofor, RZA and John Ortiz join cast
August 16, 2006: Josh Brolin joins cast
March 24, 2006: Steve Zaillian to re-write American Gangster
February 14, 2006: Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington
May 31, 2005: Don Cheadle in talks for American Gangster
March 14, 2005: Terry George Gets American Gangster
October 7, 2004: Universal Cancels American Gangster
September 13, 2004: Diana Ramirez Joins Cast
May 24, 2004: Benicio Del Toro To Star
March 29, 2004: Denzel Washington In Talks To Play Villain
March 16, 2004: Superfly Movie

 

Washington says Crowe is just a 'softy at heart'

Denzel Washington says Russell Crowe is a big "softy".

There were fears the two strong-willed actors would clash on the set of the recently completed film, American Gangster, but Washington said Crowe did not live up to his infamous reputation.

"Russell Crowe is cool. He's a good guy," Washington said. "He's intense, but he's a sweetheart. He's a softy."

American Gangster, a crime drama set in 1970s New York and directed by Ridley Scott, is scheduled for release in November and will likely have Washington and Crowe in line for Oscars.

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August 22, 2006: Chiwetel Ejiofor, RZA and John Ortiz join cast

Chiwetel Ejiofor, RZA and John Ortiz are the latest to join the cast of the crime drama, American Gangster for Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment.

The film already stars Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington; Ridley Scott is directing. According to The Hollywood Reporter, rappers-turned-actors T.I. and Common, as well as Ted Levine, John Hawkes and Yul Vazquez also have been added to the cast. The movie is based on the life of drug kingpin-turned-informant Frank Lucas (Washington), who shipped heroin to the U.S. in the coffins of soldiers killed in Vietnam. Lucas was brought to justice by lawman Richie Roberts (Crowe). The two then worked together to expose the crooked cops and foreign nationals. Ejiofor will play Washington's brother, who helps Frank run his heroin empire.

American Gangster is currently shooting in New York; a 2007 release has been scheduled.

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August 16, 2006: Josh Brolin joins cast

Josh Brolin is joining the cast of the crime drama, American Gangster for Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment.

Already starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington, the film takes place in the 1970s and is based on the life of drug-kingpin-turned-informant Frank Lucas (Washington), who shipped heroin back to the U.S. in the coffins of soldiers killed in Vietnam. Lucas was brought to justice by lawman Richie Roberts (Crowe). The Hollywood Reporter adds the two then worked together to expose the crooked cops and foreign nationals.

Ridley Scott is directing American Gangster, which is currently shooting in New York; a 2007 release has been scheduled.

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March 24, 2006: Steve Zaillian to re-write American Gangster

In a seven-figure deal, Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment have rehired Steve Zaillian, this time to rewrite American Gangster.

The studio has also committed to a late July start date for the film to be directed by Ridley Scott and star Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Brian Grazer is producing.

The rewrite job and start date end speculation over whether Universal would step up to a reconfigured version of a film it killed last year.

Former Universal chairman Stacey Snider had put the brakes on a version of the film that had Antoine Fuqua directing Washington and Benicio Del Toro as she feared the budget could top $100 million. It was an expensive move, since the actors had pay-or-play deals that had to be settled.

Zaillian had written the original script about a Harlem drug kingpin (Washington) who smuggled heroin in the body bags of U.S. soldiers slain in Vietnam.

After the film halted, Universal conscripted Terry George to pen a downsized version of the story, but Grazer and Imagine exec Jim Whitaker couldn't let go of Zaillian's vision of the crime story.

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February 14, 2006: Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington

Variety reports that Ridley Scott is in talks to direct Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington in the Brian Grazer-produced drama that had its plug pulled in late 2004 by Universal. The hope is to shoot this summer.

Universal will decide this week whether to finance or co-finance the revamped '70s crime drama, or possibly let it go. Two other studios are circling the project if Universal backs down.

The drama has a checkered past. In late 2004, Antoine Fuqua was a month from starting production in Harlem with Washington and Benicio Del Toro when Universal Pictures chairman Stacey Snider canceled the film over fear the budget would cross $100 million. Pay-or-play deals with Washington and Del Toro got settled, and the studio wrote off more than $20 million.

Imagine's Grazer, who developed the drama from a New York magazine article by Mark Jacobson, kept trying. Hotel Rwanda writer-director Terry George was brought on to rework Steve Zaillian's script and rein in the budget. Scott is working with George's draft.

The story revolves around a Harlem heroin kingpin who figured out a way to smuggle heroin in the coffins of American soldiers returning from the Vietnam War.

Crowe, who would play a cop, appears to have the most challenging schedule. He's booked to star with Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann's untitled period epic.

Crowe and Scott just completed "A Good Year" and previously made Gladiator together. Grazer made A Beautiful Mind and "Cinderella Story" with Crowe. Crowe and Washington previously played adversaries in "Virtuosity," before Crowe became a star in "L.A. Confidential."

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May 31, 2005: Don Cheadle in talks for American Gangster

According to Variety, Universal Pictures and director Terry George are courting Don Cheadle to star in American Gangster for Imagine.

An offer won't be made to Cheadle for Gangster until George completes the script, but the studio and producer Brian Grazer want the thesp.

The pic nearly went into production with Denzel Washington in the role, but the project was halted over budget concerns. George was hired in March to rework Steve Zaillian's script to a more manageable budget.

Cheadle would play Frank Lucas, a Harlem heroin kingpin in the 1970s who, after he was brought to justice, helped end the corruption and legal loopholes that allowed him to import the drug from Southeast Asia.

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March 14, 2005: Terry George Gets American Gangster

Universal Pictures and Imagine are ready to give American Gangster another chance with Hotel Rwanda writer-director Terry George.

In October, weeks before production was set to begin, the studio pulled the plug on the period pic. Antoine Fuqua was to direct Denzel Washington and Benicio Del Toro, who both had pay-or-play deals.

Universal drew the line because of fears that the gritty period drama was on course to cost more than $100 million. The studio is estimated to have paid out $20 million-plus to settle its pay-or-play obligations.

The film's producer, Imagine topper Brian Grazer, and U vice chairman Scott Stuber will redevelop the film with George. The goal is to make it for around $50 million. George's deal will be negotiated this week.

Since George directed "Hotel Rwanda" to critical acclaim, speculation has begun that that pic's Oscar-nominated star Don Cheadle would be drafted to play the lead role of Frank Lucas, the mastermind of a scheme to smuggle heroin into the U.S. in the caskets of soldiers killed in Vietnam.

Del Toro had been set to play narcotics lawman Richie Roberts, who brought down the Harlem drug kingpin called Superfly and then drafted Lucas to help bring down the dirty cops and overseas conspirators who made it easy to import heroin into the U.S.

No casting will be done until Universal's brass is confident the Steven Zaillian-scripted drama can be executed stylishly for a reduced price.

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October 7, 2004: Universal Cancels American Gangster

According to Variety, days after director Antoine Fuqua ankled over creative differences, American Gangster has been rubbed out by Universal Pictures.

Scripted by Steve Zaillian, the film was to star Denzel Washington and Benicio Del Toro. Both actors have pay-or-play deals that will have to be settled out. The pic was to be produced by Imagine's Brian Grazer and begin lensing next month in Harlem.

The film's cancellation came after the studio spent several days trying to find a director to replace Fuqua, one who might have given a hardcore crime film a broader commercial appeal. Ultimately, sources said studio brass decided that the developments would only escalate a budget that was hovering in the $80 million range and would be difficult to recoup given the subject matter.

American Gangster is based on a New York magazine article by Mark Jacobson about Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas, who smuggled heroin in the caskets of soldiers killed in Vietnam. He was eventually collared by New York detective Richie Roberts, who got Lucas to turn against his drug compatriots and the crooked cops who made his smuggling scheme possible. Washington was to play Lucas, Del Toro was to play Roberts.

Universal confirmed that the film was finished, citing time constraints and creative elements as its reason.

"We thank the actors and crew who worked on this project for their time and dedication," a spokesman said. "We look forward to making future projects with Denzel Washington, Benicio Del Toro and all of the individuals that were involved in the development of this project."

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September 13, 2004: Diana Ramirez Joins Cast

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dania Ramirez, who starred in Spike Lee's She Hate Me and has a role in Ed Zwick's live-action Fat Albert for 20th Century Fox, is in negotiations for a coveted role in the Brian Grazer-produced American Gangster opposite Denzel Washington and Benicio Del Toro.

Antoine Fuqua is directing the Universal Pictures/Imagine Entertainment project, set to start shooting in the fall for release Nov. 4, 2005.

"Gangster," previously known as "Tru Blu," is based on a New York Magazine article by Mark Jacobson. Steve Zaillian adapted the work, which centers on real-life Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas (Washington), who rose to power in the early 1970s by smuggling heroin into the United States in the caskets of soldiers killed in Vietnam. After detective Richie Roberts (Del Toro) catches up with him, Lucas cooperates with drug enforcement officials and aids Roberts in a dragnet operation.

Ramirez would play a former Miss Puerto Rico who is the wife of Washington's character.

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May 24, 2004: Benicio Del Toro To Star

According to Variety, Benicio Del Toro will star alongside Denzel Washington in the Antoine Fuqua-directed "Tru Blu". The film will be based on a true story of how a lawman brought down the biggest drug kingpin in Harlem in the 1970s. Production will begin in early fall.

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March 29, 2004: Denzel Washington In Talks To Play Villain

According to Entertainment Weekly, Denzel Washington will be in Tru Blu. the article reads, " Villian of the Week: Denzel Washington. The oscar winner may once again give in to his dark side: He's currently in talks to reunite with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua for Universal's Superfly update, Tru Blu."

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March 16, 2004: Superfly Movie

According to Variety, Denzel Washington and helmer Antoine Fuqua are in negotiations to reunite on a biopic of Harlem heroin kingpin Frank Lucas. Under the working title "The Return of Superfly," the movie is being produced by Brian Grazer and Imagine Entertainment for Universal Pictures.

Imagine and Universal hope to go into production on "Superfly" late this summer.

The script, penned by Steven Zaillian, centers on narcotics lawman Richie Roberts' struggle to bring down Lucas, whose flamboyant style earned him the street name "Superfly." Lucas goes on to help Roberts hunt down dirty cops and overseas connections.

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American Gangster, a Ridley Scott film, starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.
American Gangster Movie.

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