THE third time turned out to be the charm for "American Gangster."
The thriller had fallen apart twice at Universal before production eventually began last year. When it was last canceled in 2005 because of cost concerns, Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer ("A Beautiful Mind") says, he had to "gather the energy" to revive the project.
"It was so much harder than anything I have tried to do in my professional life," he says of the film.
Set in the 1970s, "American Gangster" tells the story of Harlem kingpin Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), who exported heroin from Southeast Asia to the U.S. in the caskets of soldiers killed in the Vietnam War, and the efforts of narcotics detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) to bring Lucas to justice.
Director Ridley Scott had been impressed with an early version of Steve Zaillian's script, which he read three years ago before making "Kingdom of Heaven" and even talked about the project with Crowe while they were making "A Good Year."
"I found out what was happening to it and that it had gone on 'hiatus,' which is one way of putting it," says Scott. "I got into it with Brian and said, 'I think we can get Russell on board.' "
With the lure of working with Scott and Crowe, Washington, who had been set to star in the film's first incarnation, returned to the "American Gangster" fold and the film got underway early last year.
-- Susan King