According to a report in Variety, Will Smith is lining up his next role – as an older con artist who teaches a young female con artist his thieving ways. The movie, entitled “Focus,” is written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who most recently directed the hit comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love” for Warner Bros. (the same studio producing “Focus”).
The trade reveals that Smith has been “weighing the film for some time and has officially committed to joining the pic.” Smith is notoriously picky when it comes to what projects he signs on to – perhaps most famously turning down the title role in Quentin Tarantino‘s “Django Unchained” for the safer “Men in Black 3” – and Warner Bros. has had a hard time filling the role. Initially, Ficarra and Requa wanted to reteam their “Crazy, Stupid, Love” stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, but when Gosling’s schedule proved difficult they started looking elsewhere.
Stewart had been attached for a little while, but according to THR, she has since dropped out. The filmmakers but they were doggedly working on getting Ben Affleck to star. He almost signed on until other commitments intervened. Given the size of the movie, Warner Bros. (and producer Denise DiNovi) knew that they would have to attach a star of a particular wattage, which is why Brad Pitt was also sought at one point.
While the movie isn’t something anyone could consider “risky” (unless there’s some subversive streak the logline isn’t revealing), it does seem a step in the right direction for Smith, who all too often chooses safely commercial fare over more unproven, artier material. Ficarra and Requa previously wrote “Bad Santa” for Terry Zwigoff and “The Bad News Bears” for Richard Linklater, before writing and directing “I Love You Phillip Morris,” which, despite it being more or less outstanding, proved too controversial for mainstream audiences.
Warner Bros. purchased the script early last year and, according to the report, they are antsy to get it into development. Considering Smith’s busy schedule (he can next be seen in M. Night Shyamalan‘s post-apocalyptic comeback movie “Another Earth“) and Stewart’s impending commitments to another “Snow White and the Huntsman” movie, production should get underway soon. We wonder if they’re already looking at a July 4th weekend spot.