Sean Penn and Robert Pattinson are circling Fox 2000's "Water for Elephants," with Reese Witherspoon already attached to star and Francis Lawrence attached to direct.
Film is based on the best-selling historical tome of the same name by Sara Gruen. Scribe Richard LaGravenese will adapt for the bigscreen.
Gil Netter, Erwin Stoff and Andrew Tennenbaum are producing.
Studio wouldn't confirm details of the project.
Set during the Great Depression, Gruen's book tells the story of a Cornell Unviersity veterinary student who leaves his studies after his parents are killed, and joins up with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, working as a vet for the circus.
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Twilight Saga franchise star Robert Pattinson has finally found a studio film to sink his teeth into. He's in talks to star in Water for Elephants, the Richard LaGravanese-scripted adaptation of the Sara Gruen novel that Fox 2000 is putting together with Francis Lawrence directing. Reese Witherspoon is already attached, and the studio is courting Sean Penn to return from a big screen sabbatical by playing the other lead in the Depression-era romantic triangle. The novel was a runaway bestseller, and in keeping with the eclectic output of Fox 2000's Elizabeth Gabler. Gil Netter, Erwin Stoff and Andrew Tennenbaum are producing.
Pattinson is in talks to play Jacob, a 21 year old who joins a second-rate traveling circus after he’s traumatized by the car crash death of both parents. He left just before he was to take his veterinary medicine exams at an Ivy League school, and finds his place in the circus by caring for the menagerie of mangy animals. He falls in love with Marlena, the show’s star performer (Witherspoon), and that's courting danger since she's married to the paranoid schizophrenic animal trainer who runs the show. That is the role that Penn is circling. Deals still have to be made, and putting three pricey stars in a period adult drama is a challenging proposition.
Pattinson, who between Twilight segments starred for Summit in Remember Me, has been cautious about choosing his next job, but the prospect of starring in another well-known literary adaptation, potentially alongside two Oscar winners, seems a strong move. The hope is to get the picture into production around June, before he returns for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn.
Witherspoon is also in discussions for the 20th Century Fox comedy This Means War. There is no director on that film, but Bradley Cooper is also circling the comedy which Fox production chief Emma Watts has revived after the studio acquired it over 10 years ago as a vehicle for Martin Lawrence. Reese would play a woman who separately meets two men, who happen to be best friends. When they discover they're pining for the same woman, the title kicks in. Will Smith and James Lassiter's Overbrook is lead producer on the film.
Penn, who took a sabbatical for personal reasons, has also resurfaced as a potential Larry Fine in The Three Stooges. While that Farrelly Brothers-directed comedy has Fox strategically positioned as at least co-financier, the picture resides at MGM. It won't be go into production until ownership of that studio is resolved.