Billy Ray, Oscar nominee and Writers Guild Award winner this past season for adapting Captain Phillips to the screen, has been sought to pen the screenplay to Fox’s The Ballad of Richard Jewell. The film, based on Marie Brenner’s 1997 Vanity Fair article tells the story of Jewell, the security guard who first discovered and reported the knapsack bomb at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Jewell assisted to clear bystanders only later to be held under the fire of suspicion of involvement in the attack. Though Jewell had no involvement in that attack, he was nearly instantly vilified and put under a microscope by the press (and became a punchline for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show in the process.) Curiously, this isn’t the first Vanity Fair article Brenner has written that has gotten the Hollywood treatment– she wrote the original source for Michael Mann’s Oscar-nominated 1999 whistle-blower docudrama The Insider. Ray seems, on paper at the very least, a natural fit for the material given a résumé that includes other potent fact-based dramas like Phillips and Shattered Glass (2003), which focused on the true story of disgraced The New Republic writer Stephen Glass, a film in which he also directed. Ray also co-wrote the Jodie Foster thriller Flightplan and did a polish on The Hunger Games.
We previously reported that The Wolf of Wall Street stars (and Oscar nominees) Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill will re-team for the project with Hill front and center as Jewell and DiCaprio will play second fiddle this go around as his attorney. The showcase may be a plum opportunity for Hill in his first outing as leading a drama after offering stealthy support in his Oscar-nominated performances in Wolf and 2011’s Moneyball. Both actors will be on hand as producers on Ballad as well, along with Kevin Misher (Mirror Mirror), who initially discovered the article.
While no director or start dates have been tapped at this time, The Ballad of Richard Jewell, the project appears to moving forward and the screenwriter announcement adds another notch to film’s already impressive pedigree.