Wait, Sean Penn out? When was he in? Michael Fassbender? If “Genius” seems to be coming completely out of the blue, don’t feel too bad because the long-gestating project has been moving in fits and starts for a couple of years now, and the last news we had was way back in January 2011, when it looked like it was going to be a Fassy/Penn joint. Well, the bad news is that Penn is out, the good news is that Firth is in. As for whether or not this means it will actually get made, is up in the air.
But, for what it’s worth, the film is an adaptation of the National Book Award-winning non-fiction work “Max Perkins: Editor of Genius” by A. Scott Berg, and focuses on Perkins’ relationship with Thomas Wolfe (no, not the white suit guy, the genius author no one talks about anymore). Wolfe was a great writer, but a notoriously undisciplined one, and the two fought constantly — Perkins convinced the author to cut 90,000 words from his first novel, “Look Homeward, Angel,” and battled for two years over the length of his second book “Of Time And The River.” Wolfe eventually grew resentful of how much of his success was being attributed to Perkins (who also worked with folks like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald) and left Scribner’s. Wolfe would later die far too young at the age of the thirty-seven, but on his deathbed wrote a moving tribute to Perkins.
Fassbender will play the fiery, hard drinking, larger-than-life Wolfe, with Firth slotted in as Perkins. At one time, the project was being developed as a directorial vehicle for River Road honcho Bill Pohlad, but instead Michael Grandage will be making his debut. John Logan (“Skyfall,” “Hugo“) has penned the script that made the Black List in 2007.
Filming will kick off in early 2014 as financing, distribution rights and all that other fun stuff comes together.