American Gangster, a 1970s crime drama about heroin smugged in the coffins of American soldiers returning from Viet Nam (whoa) that has had trouble getting off the ground, is back on Universal's table. In 2004, the movie was just weeks from being made by Antoine Fuqua with stars Denzel Washington and Benicio Del Toro, but the studio yanked it over budget fears. By trying to save money, though, they ran afoul of play-or-pay clauses in the stars' contracts, and ended up paying out about $20 million to Washington and Del Toro, who gleefully skipped to the bank.

Now, however, the script has been retooled, and producer Brian Grazer is determined to get the movie made. The latest names to be associated with the project are big ones: Ridley Scott is being discussed as director, and Denzel is back (Will they have to pay him again, for the same movie? That would rock.), but with Russell Crowe by his side. If it works out this time, the set will be a huge reunion: Scott and Crowe worked together on both Gladiator and the forthcoming A Good Year, and Grazer produced A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man. Oh, and though they'd both surely like to forget the movie ever happened, Crowe and Washington costarred in 1995's dreadful Virtuosity, which is easily one of the five worst movies I've ever seen.

Even if Universal again decides not to go forward with the project, Variety reports that other studios have expressed interest, so there's hope that, eventually, American Gangster might actually happen.
categories Movies, Cinematical