Oldman returns to evil ways

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Gary Oldman is in negotiations to star opposite Denzel Washington in "The Book of Eli," an action thriller from Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment. Albert and Allen Hughes are directing.

The script, by Gary Whitta with a rewrite by Anthony Peckham, centers on a lone hero named Eli (Washington) who must fight his way across the wasteland of a near-future America to protect a sacred book that might hold the key to saving humanity.

Oldman will play Carnegie, the despot of a makeshift town lacking standard necessities, services and laws. Carnegie is determined to take possession of the book Eli is guarding.

Alcon is financing and co-producing with Silver Pictures. Warners will distribute domestically, with Summit Entertainment handling international sales.

Silver Pictures' Joel Silver and Susan Downey are producing along with Washington and Alcon's Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson.

Filming is set to start in February in New Mexico with an eye toward a Jan. 15, 2010, release date.

The role returns Oldman to his more villainous side, seen in such films as "Dracula," "The Professional" and even "Hannibal." The actor has been spending recent years portraying good men fighting the good fight via such characters as Sirius Black in the "Harry Potter" movies and James Gordon in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies.

Oldman is repped by Paradigm and Douglas Management Group. (partialdiff)
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