Edward Norton Exits State of Play

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Variety says that Edward Norton is exiting State of Play, and talks are under way for Ben Affleck to replace him in the Kevin Macdonald-directed drama for Universal Pictures and Working Title. The film is expected to begin production in the first week of January.

Norton becomes the second high profile cast member to disembark, following the exit of his Fight Club co-star Brad Pitt just before Thanksgiving.

While Universal threatened legal action with Pitt, Norton’s exit has no rancor. His problem: he had committed to follow State of Play by playing the dual leads in Leaves of Grass, an independent comedy written and to be directed by Tim Blake Nelson. Norton is producing that picture with his Class 5 Films partner Bill Migliore, and Nelson. Barbarian Films is financing.

PittÂ’s exit, and the courtship of Russell Crowe to replace him, moved the State of Play start date from mid-November into January. That created a clash, and the studio, working with Norton’s and Affleck’s reps at Endeavor, worked out an exit plan.

Now it will be Affleck who plays a fast-rising politician who is caught up in a murder conspiracy. Crowe will play a journalist who leads a newspaper’s investigation into the killing. He’s conflicted in that he once ran the pol’s campaigns, and he is now romancing his estranged wife.

Still in the cast are Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn and Jason Bateman.