After not hearing from her for a while, Kimberly Peirce is ready to direct “The Knife,” a drama of a South Central gang member-turned-paid FBI informant, for Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment. Apparently, this man’s collaboration with the Feds turned over many criminals, including drug lords and murderers. He was so successful that leaders of gangs put out a “kill all snitches” order, placing the informant’s life in danger. The premise is based on a true story adapted from the 2008 article “The Inside Man” in GQ Magazine by Guy Lawson. Black List and Nicholl Fellowship-winning screenwriter Vineet Dewan (“Sand Dogs“) will pen the script with Brian Grazer (“A Beautiful Mind“) producing. The studio first acquired the rights to the article when it came out, but the project has been buried for the past two years.
Peirce and Dewan, with the help of Grazer and Imagine Entertainment’s Erica Huggins, revived the project themselves. They made the material more palatable to the studio by writing a 60-page “scriptment,” and Dewan created a graphic novel of the material (much like Darren Aronofsky‘s doing for his next project). Peirce, whose credits include “Boys Don’t Cry” and the severely underrated 2008 post-war drama “Stop-Loss,” has made a name for herself by carefully choosing her projects and coaching her actors to great performances (Hilary Swank won an Oscar for “Boys Don’t Cry” in 2000). After serving on the jury for last month’s Sundance Film Festival, Peirce claimed that she was impressed by the indie model of filmmaking that sparked a buying frenzy at this year’s festival.
“We spent about four months working for free to put this together, because directors and writers have to go in with a movie like this totally figured out,” Peirce told Deadline. “Many of my filmmaker and screenwriter friends tell me they’ve had to do the same. You just have to look at it as the answer to the question, what do I have to do to get a good movie made? A two-minute pitch isn’t good enough, and is there anything more mind-numbing than reading an outline? I fell in love with the two characters and immediately saw a classic buddy movie with this rookie gang-banger and a hard-nosed FBI agent who have to overcome a mutual distrust. The agent wants to infiltrate the gang at a time when the FBI had no understanding of gang structure. They were effective but there are so many conflicts that play out, like can you be an informant without being a rat, to can you trust an informant if his reason for cooperating isn’t that you will otherwise send him to prison for another crime he committed? I love true undercover crime stories like ‘On The Waterfront,’ ‘The Departed‘ and ‘Donnie Brasco,’ but Hollywood is moving away from films like these. We walked in and said, here’s the movie, it will cost under $30 million. And we walked out with much more than a development deal. It also helped that ‘The Town‘ and ‘Takers‘ came in at $30 million or less and grossed over $100 million. The studio told us to move as fast as we can and that’s what we’re doing.”
As we haven’t seen a film from Peirce since 2008’s aforementioned “Stop-Loss,” it should be exciting to see her take on a genre that’s been done beautifully before, but usually by a man. Sound off in the comments with possible casting suggestions as filming should be underway pretty quickly.