Tony Scott could get Grisham-ed


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EXCLUSIVE: Tony Scott has directed a lot of commercial pictures in his prolific career -- action movies set amid fighter pilots, hostage movies set on trains, thrillers set in high-level government agencies. But he’s never taken on the pinnacle of commercial pictures: a John Grisham thriller.

That could change shortly, as the director is, according to sources, just a step away from taking the director’s job on “The Associate.” The film, set up at Paramount, is a Grisham-derived conspiracy thriller about a young lawyer blackmailed into taking a job at a high-profile firm to pass along secrets to a shady defense contractor. Paramount was not immediately available for comment.


Like that other big-firm blackmail movie from Grisham, the mega-hit “The Firm,” in which Sydney Pollack directed Tom Cruise, “The Associate” comes with a boatload of talent -- William Monahan wrote the script, Shia LaBeouf is starring and Lorenzo Di Bonaventura is producing.

Scott has a proven box-office hand, though his record has been uneven of late -- a movie of his hasn’t earned more than $70 million domestically since 2004 (“Man on Fire”), and hasn’t exceeded $100 million since 1998 (“Enemy of the State”).
That might make Paramount think twice about the film’s budget; certainly that was an issue for Fox in an on-again-off-again backstage drama around the Scott-directed, Denzel Washington-starring action movie “Unstoppable” (which wound up getting greenlighted and will be released in the fall).

Still, there are bigger gambles. Scott is known as one of the more reliable thriller hands out there, and if you’re trying to limit the uncertainty on a bigger-budget thriller, teaming Scott with the writer of “The Departed” and a “Transformers” star would seem pretty much the best way to do it.

As for Grisham, he could use a seasoned pedigree and a big marketing budget: After four $90-million-plus grossers in four years in the mid-1990s, he hasn’t had a legal thriller crack the $50-million mark since “A Time to Kill” did it in 1996.-- Steven Zeitchik

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