We’ve known since February that the fabled Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill bromance first seen in The Wolf of Wall Street would continue into a second film. We’ve also known who that film would be about: Richard Jewell, the security guard who saved the ’96 Olympics from a bomb threat and was wrongfully crucified for it.
And now thanks to Deadline, we know who’s interested in directing it (“circling” the project, as they say): Paul Greengrass. Makes sense, given that the script is being handled by Captain Phillips writer Billy Ray. Right now, some outlets are referring to the pic as American Nightmare, but it’s not totally clear if that’s the official title or just something taken from the Vanity Fair expose this is all based off of, “American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell.”
Here’s a quick primer on just who this Richard Jewell guy was: the security guard discovered a hidden pipe bomb at the Atlanta games and promptly saved the day by getting people the hell out of there and calling the cops. Truly, blessed day for all peoples. Except Richard Jewell, because the FBI considered him a suspect and started tearing into his life. And then the 24-hour news cycle caught wind of this, decided that “yeah, Jewell was the probably the bomber” and promptly devoted a few months’ worth of cycling to reporting that very claim.
After about three months of that, the FBI finally cleared Jewell’s name, and he could go on to his next great act of heroism: suing the shit out of every publication that slandered him. Which he did until his death in 2007.
Hill will take on the role of Jewell, while DiCaprio will play L. Lin Wood Jr., a lawyer who was really just a real estate guy but somehow became Jewell’s media muse, steering him through the throngs of reporters who would regularly follow him around and yell things. There’s a tricky (but potentially wonderful) conflict here, if Greengrass stops circling and moves in for the kill. Greengrass, you see, is known for his true-to-life underdog stories with a political bent. And Hill is known (by and large) for being a piece of comic relief – even in his Oscar-nominated turn in The Wolf of Wall Street (less so with Moneyball).
In a staring contest, who wins? Will Greengrass lighten up? Because aside from two Bourne sequels, nearly everything he’s done is hard-hitting political grimness. Or will Hill have to play it totally straight for once? My money’s on Hill losing the funny. Since landing all those Oscar noms, he’s been edging towards more dramatic fare – next up, he and James Franco are doing the serial killer drama True Story. Also it’s worth noting that Jewell’s story is searingly unfunny. Horrifying media accusations, invasions of privacy and all that. Now’s the time for Hill to stand up and become the impassioned dramatic actor that we haven’t really seen, except in glimpses. Guy’s got Oscar nominations now. Gotta start backing ’em up.