Crowe makes a 'Play' for Uni

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Russell Crowe will replace Brad Pitt in "State of Play," saving Universal and Working Title's delayed political thriller from shutting down.

Pitt pulled out of the movie two weeks ago, citing script concerns that made him uneasy about toplining the picture. That brought him to loggerheads with the studio, which was adamant about going ahead with Matthew Michael Carnahan's script and a cast that already was in place. The studio raised the possibility of legal action against Pitt when he dropped out of the project.

Director Kevin Macdonald spent the weekend before last in Australia wooing Crowe, who had to see if "Play" could fit into his schedule. Crowe is scheduled to shoot Universal and Imagine's "Nottingham," the Ridley Scott-directed reimagining of the Robin Hood story. Key to concluding a deal with Crowe was juggling the scheduling demands of both films. With "Play" now set to begin production this month, the studio expects Crowe will then move immediately into "Nottingham" in March.

In "Play," Crowe will star alongside Edward Norton, Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman and Robin Wright Penn in the adaptation of the British miniseries. He will play a political consultant-turned-journalist who heads a newspaper's murder investigation involving a fast-rising politician (Norton). The studio hopes to retain the full cast now that the film is once again a go. Andrew Hauptman and Working Title's Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing.

Crowe, repped by WMA, has turned into something of a favorite son for Universal. He is onscreen in the studio's "American Gangster," which has grossed more than $120 million domestically to date, and also toplined Uni's "Cinderella Man" and "A Beautiful Mind.
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