After much speculation, Variety is reporting that Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker is in final negotiations with The Weinstein Company to join Southpaw, starring Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal. The story is about a left-handed (a.k.a. southpaw) ex-prizewinning boxer who falls from grace after suffering a personal tragedy. Whitaker will play the trainer who helps Gyllenhaal’s down-and-out fighter get back in the ring and rebuild his life. Lupita Nyong’o and Rachel McAdams are also in talks to star.
Though we have yet to see Whitaker top his Oscar-winning tour-de-force performance as the ruthless Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, his work in last year’s Lee Daniel’s The Butler earned him some of the best reviews of his career. Keeping the high-profile (and possible awards-worthy roles) on the way, he expressed interest last year in playing Martin Luther King, Jr. in Paul Greengrass’s Memphis, according to The Wrap. He just recently finished his part on Taken 3 and will direct, produce, and star in The Shack, which is slated to begin production later this year.
Meanwhile, Gyllenhaal has been on a roll with critically-acclaimed films as of late: he last starred in Denis Villeneuve’s films Enemy and Prisoners as well as David Ayer’s End of Watch and Duncan Jones’s Source Code. He will next star in Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition.
Director Antoine Fuqua is no stranger to action flicks (Olympus Has Fallen, Training Day, Tears of the Sun, Shooter), but he hasn’t helmed anything in the sports-drama department. It will be interesting to see how he approaches the material. He recently finished The Equalizer and even had its scriptwriter Richard Wenck do a rewrite of Southpaw. Kurt Sutter, whose previous writing credits include Sons of Anarchy and The Shield, penned the original draft of the screenplay.
Producers Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal (The Equalizer, Seven Pounds, The Pursuit of Happiness) along with Alan Riche (Bride Wars, Starsky and Hutch) and Peter Riche are backing the film. No release date has been announced, but we’ll be keeping track of the film’s progress.