One of the most hotly sought-after directorial jobs going at the moment — or at least the one that’s leaked the widest-ranging wishlist– is Warner Bros’ period action-drama “Tales From The Gangster Squad.” Based on a seven-part series of articles in the LA Times, the film’s been in the works for a couple of years now, with a script from former cop and current writer on “Castle,” Will Beall, and focuses on a special division of the LAPD formed in 1946 to keep east coast mobsters, led by Mickey Cohen, out of the city. (A rather darker take on the material can be seen in “L.A. Confidential“)
It became clear a month or so back that the film was a priority for Warners when they first offered it to current golden boy Ben Affleck, off the back of the success of his own crime drama “The Town.” Darren Aronofsky was the next to turn it down, choosing to go with “Wolverine 2,” and most recently, names like Paul Greengrass, Francis Lawrence, Martin Campbell, “Crazy Heart” director Scott Cooper and “Green Lantern” writer Greg Berlanti were said to be on the studio’s short-list.
Now, three new names are reported by the LA Times to be in solid talks with the studio, and it’s a rather diverse mix of directors. Cooper appears to be the only name who’s survived the cut from the previous list, and new additions include the Brazilian director of “Elite Squad,” Jose Padilha, who was at one stage linked to the Robert Ludlum adaptation “The Sigma Protocol” and videogame adaptation “Agents in Place,” and, perhaps most surprisingly, “Zombieland” helmer Ruben Fleischer.
Between his feature debut and his upcoming follow-up, “30 Minutes or Less,” Fleischer’s been making a name for himself in the comedy world, but he’s proven his action chops both in “Zombieland” and in the music video world, so Warners talking to him makes more sense than it might initially seem. Padilha, whose fiction debut focused on a badass anti-narcotics unit in Rio de Janeiro, is something of a no-brainer, even if he’s yet to prove himself in the English language, while Cooper’s perhaps the most surprising choice of all, although he is developing the period crime picture “The Hatfields and the McCoys” for Brad Pitt.
Described as “an action movie with humor and snappy dialogue,” and drawing comparisons with “The Untouchables,” Warners are clearly hoping that this’ll connect with a wide audience in a way that Michael Mann‘s “Public Enemies” singularly failed to do last summer. Presumably “Tales From The Gangster Squad” will be more formally traditional, unless the chosen director decides to out-Mann Mann and shoot and edit the whole thing on an iPhone. We imagine a decision’ll be made (on the director, not on the iPhone) by the end of the year.