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‘Elite Squad’ Director Jose Padilha Taking On Kathryn Bigelow With Actioner ‘Tri-Border’

'Elite Squad' Director Jose Padilha Taking On Kathryn Bigelow With Actioner 'Tri-Border'

The Hurt Locker” Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow might have a big head start over the competition with her Osama Bin Laden project, which just got picked up by Sony, but switching over to that film means that another of her projects has some competition that might well pip it to the post. Bigelow was originally meant to follow up her awards success by reteaming with writer Mark Boal (who’s also writing the Bin Laden project) on “Triple Frontier,” an action-drama starring Tom Hanks (and potentially Johnny Depp as well), a “Traffic“-style multi-stranded tale focusing on the border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, a crime-ridden area rife with drug traffickers.

But with the Bin Laden film jumping the queue, “Triple Frontier” has taken a back seat, and a rival project has now emerged, with The Hollywood Reporter bringing news that Brazilian helmer Jose Padilha, a former documentarian who came to attention with the two acclaimed “Elite Squadfilms, is developing “Tri-Border,” a political actioner focusing on the same subject matter, and he’s brought Nick Schenk, writer of “Gran Torino,” on board to pen the script.

Padilha’s been sought after in Hollywood for some time: he’s been linked to “Gangster Squad” and “Robocop” in recent months, and only last night was said to be on Fox’s short-list to replace Darren Aronofsky on “The Wolverine,” but this film, while intended to have an international flavor, doesn’t have a studio home at present, with Padilha financing development himself.

The plot will involve a DEA agent who busts the son of a senator in a raid, and is sent to Paraguay as punishment. In order to get back home, he has to capture a major dealer in the area. Padilha told THR something of his approach, saying “The idea is to have a political film hidden inside an action film, a film that can entertain and teach people about the tri-border and the international crime in general,” which fits in with the approach he’s already taken on the “Elite Squad” series.

Padilha and Schenk are currently in the area researching, and Padilha seems to be getting to grips with the place already: “It’s a different reality, in a totally different environment: the frontier of three countries, in which one finds many different players operating, ranging from Italian, Chinese and Serbian mafias, to Bolivian, Colombian and Brazilian drug dealers, including Lebanese smugglers suspected of helping Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as corrupted police and politicians from Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.”

The plan is for the script to be finished by the end of August, so it’s entirely possible that, if it gets enough heat (and if Padilha doesn’t get the ‘Wolverine’ job), this could beat Bigelow’s project to the set, which might well prove curtains for “Triple Frontier,” despite the A-list talent involved. Then again, as the current “Snow White” idiocy proves, filmmakers don’t necessarily shy from multi-million dollar brinksmanship.

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