To clarify the headline, Leonardo DiCaprio is, of course, irreplaceable, as most of the greats are. But yes, he was, at one point, attached to play the defense attorney in The Ballad of Richard Jewell, and today brings word that recent Oscar winner Sam Rockwell will be stepping into that juicy role for director Clint Eastwood.
The Ballad of Richard Jewell follows the heroic security guard who discovered a suspicious backpack at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and quickly evacuated the area, only to see his life turned upside down when he was implicated as a possible suspect in the subsequent Olympic Park bombing. The “fake news” had real consequences, as the media turned him into an instant social pariah, though he maintained his innocence throughout the 88-day ordeal.
Jonah Hill was originally going to play Jewell back when Ezra Edelman (OJ: Made in America) was attached to direct, and DiCaprio was to have played his defense attorney. Eventually, both actors decided to simply produce, and Eastwood has yet to cast the part of Jewell. Rockwell’s casting should make things a bit easier, as potential stars will know they’ll having a great sparring partner who always brings out the best in his co-stars, as evidenced by his recent turns in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and the FX series Fosse/Verdon.
Eastwood is directing from a script by Billy Ray, based on a Vanity Fair article by Marie Brenner. Eastwood is also producing through his Malpaso production banner along with Jessica Meier, Kevin Misher, Tim Moore and DiCaprio’s Appian Way partner Jennifer Davisson Killoran. Ballad was originally set up at Fox, but after the studio was acquired by Disney this spring, all parties thought it best to allow the project to migrate to Eastwood’s longtime home at Warner Bros.
Rockwell recently played George W. Bush in Adam McKay‘s Vice and starred opposite Taraji P. Henson in the racially charged drama The Best of Enemies. He’ll soon be seen in Taika Waititi‘s WWII movie Jojo Rabbit, and he also lends his voice to the title character in Disney’s The One and Only Ivan. He’s represented by Gersh and Untitled Entertainment, and his casting was first reported by Variety.