A match made in heaven? One could say filmmaker Richard Kelly has been leading up to this moment for a long time. The “Donnie Darko” director is teaming up with Nicolas Cage for a true-crime thriller called “Amicus” that he will not not only helm, but write and produce as well alongside Laura Bickford (“Traffic,” “Che“) and Cage’s agent Mike Nilon. According to Variety, the picture will be Kelly’s next feature and Cage will play Rodney A. Smolla, an award-winning author and one of the most influential First Amendment scholars of the past two decades. A January start date is being eyed.
The bizarre and fascinating story centers the around the lives of several people. Lawrence Horn, a former Motown Records exec and record producer who is currently serving a life sentence for hiring a hit man to commit a triple-murder is where the tale begins. Laid off by Mowtown in 1990 and sliding into debt, Horn contracted a Detroit hitman, James Perry, to murder his wife, physically disabled son and the family nurse (the idea being to collect the lucrative insurance money; the son had been inadvertently crippled in tragic medical malpractice circumstances). Convicted and sentenced to death for the murders in 1995, Perry evidently used the book “Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors” as a guide on how to pull off his brutal plan.
How does Smolla fit into all this? The families of the victims went on to file a class-action lawsuit against the Colorado-based publisher of the book, Paladin Press and Smolla was hired to consult on the case that dragged on for five years with various strange twists and turns. While Variety doesn’t mention it by name, presumably some of the story is based off of Smolla’s colorful book about the events, “Deliberate Intent: A Lawyer Tells the True Story of Murder by the Book” (that evidently got him ostracized in some circles of the media law community).
Kelly’s career has been full of some weird and strange material such as the batshit crazy “Southland Tales” (which was booed in Cannes in 2006), the script for Tony Scott‘s most-gonzo film “Domino,” and 2009’s weirdo sci-fi drama “The Box.” Working with the typically unhinged Cage almost feels a fait accompli. Kelly’s “Corpus Christi” starring Edgar Ramirez was originally scheduled to be the 37-year-old filmmaker’s next film, but it never coalesced and is back in development. Obviously, with Cage in the somewhat unlikely role of the lawyer, Smolla, two more juicy roles, Perry and Horn are still up for grabs. Though, if this is more of a trial story, perhaps the two criminals in the story are more ripe for celebrity cameo parts. One can only guess if “Amicus” can top or equal the strange Werner Herzog/Cage collaboration of “The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans,” arguably the actor’s last looney tunes performance alongside an auteur.