EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films is gearing up on Consent to Kill, which is Les Moonves’s film division’s first shot at building a feature franchise. The tough part: making the right choice for undercover CIA counter-terrorism agent Mitch Rapp. The casting process hasn’t kicked up the level of dust Marvel has generated on The First Avenger: Captain America–THR just reported an offer has gone out to Chris Evans, a candidate Deadline told you about first on March 9–but CBS Films is down to three intriguing candidates to star in the Antoine Fuqua-directed film.
Consent to Kill is one of the Interviews bestselling Vince Flynn novels that combine political intrigue and action. driven by a lead character who possesses the killing machine qualities and ruthlessness of Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer. I hear CBS Films has set its sights on Gerard Butler, Colin Farrell and Matthew Fox.
Butler is the front-runner right now, and seems ideal to play a man of action. Farrell hasn’t done a ton of action, but he impressed CBS Films CEO Amy Baer when he starred in SWAT, a project she supervised when she was a Columbia Pictures exec. The surprise is Fox, and I hear he has pursued the role aggressively as a next step after Lost finishes up. Fox hasn’t been proven as an actor who can carry a feature franchise, but neither was Bruce Willis when he jumped from Moonlighting to Die Hard. CBS Films execs have had conversations with reps of actors that include Keanu Reeves and Jon Hamm, but the focus is on the trio. No offers have been made and it’s not certain that Butler or Farrell would take the role.
Though it isn’t the first novel in the espionage series, Consent to Kill is a strong way to start the series. In the Jonathan Lemkin scripted adaptation, Rapp battles a Saudi billionaire who is out for revenge (Rapp killed his terrorist son in the earlier book Memorial Day). Rapp has to contend with a German spy and a husband and wife assassin team who’ve been hired to kill him, along with bureaucrats in the government who want to do Rapp harm. All this puts Rapp’s wife and unborn child in grave danger, and when the stuff hits the fan, Rapp becomes a character reminiscent of Denzel Washington in Man On Fire. CBS Films was designed to make films up to $50 million, but this one will likely cost more. Since a summer start date is in the offing, the Rapp decision should be made shortly.