Ed Norton Follows Brad Pitt’s Lead and Exits ‘State of Play’

ON

I am now convinced Russell Crowe was offered one of the most impressive contracts in movie history to take Brad Pitt’s place in Universal’s State of Play, and I was baffled as to why Ed Norton was staying on board if Pitt had so many issues with the script. Well, now it seems Ed Norton isn’t sticking around either, but word is that it isn’t because of script issues.

Norton now has a scheduling issue as he has committed to star in Leaves of Grass for Tim Blake Nelson, a film that was announced on December 5th by Variety, six days after Crowe committed to take Pitt’s place. I have to wonder if Norton didn’t commit to Leaves in an effort to ultimately ditch State of Play.

Variety is saying that Ben Affleck is now being eyed to take Norton’s place in the political thriller based on the popular BBC miniseries about a star politician and an ace reporter who are caught up in all sorts of intrigue. The pic was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and then rewritten by Peter Morgan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray. Last King of Scotland helmer Kevin Macdonald directs.

The trade seems content to say Affleck will be in the film playing 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. Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn and Jason Bateman round out the cast.

The film is expected to begin shooting in January 2008.