AFM: Bob Simonds' New Studio Eyes First Project With Matthew McConaughey

'Hunger Games' director Gary Ross will helm the Civil War-era biopic

Gary Ross' The Free State of Jones is coming together, attaching Matthew McConaughey to star as real-life Civil War soldier Newton Knight, who turned against the Confederacy.

Bob Simonds' new studio is in advanced talks to co-finance the biopic — in what would mark its first project to be announced — with foreign sales outfit IM Global. Insiders stress that the deal isn't done, but other sources say Simonds and his team are especially keen on the Scott Stuber-produced film. Simonds' company would release the movie in the U.S., while IM Global would sell it internationally. CAA is representing domestic rights.

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IM Global confirmed it is co-financing Free State of Jones and said it intends to launch the project to foreign buyers gathered in Santa Monica this week for the American Film Market. News of McConaughey's casting comes just as he lands in theaters in Christopher Nolan's space epic Interstellar.

Ross is aiming to start shooting Free State of Jones in the first quarter of 2015, meaning it could be McConaughey's next movie. The film is budgeted at $65 million, although Simonds' portion would be closer to $20 million.

Born in 1822, Knight is best known as the leader of the Knight Company, a group of Confederate deserters who led an uprising against their former comrades and tried to form the "Free State of Jones" in Jones County, Mississippi. After the war, he married a former slave.

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Simonds' studio, which still doesn't have a name, has amassed a powerful lineup of executives, including former Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson, who is serving as chairman of the motion picture group. Veteran studio marketing executive Oren Aviv is serving as president and chief content officer of the film division, which eventually intends to turn out as many as 10 films a year.

McConaughey is represented by CAA.

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