Steve Zaillian Writing, Producing 'Montezuma' for Steven Spielberg to Direct

Steve Zaillian
Steve Zaillian
 Getty Images

Steve Zaillian has come aboard to rewrite and produce Montezuma, one of Hollywood's fabled projects that Steven Spielberg hopes to direct, THR has confirmed.

Montezuma is now set up at DreamWorks and Javier Bardem has expressed interest in starring as the Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernan Cortes, the man who caused the fall of the Aztec Empire.

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Dalton Trumbo, the screenwriter who was part of the Hollywood Ten and was blacklisted in the 1950s, wrote Montezuma, which explores the complicated relationship between Cortes and the Aztec emperor Montezuma, in the 1960s. It was intended to reteam the writer with star Kirk Douglas, who starred in Trumbo's classic Spartacus.

The project fell by the wayside but now has found a home, decades later, with DreamWorks.

Spielberg has been looking for a project to direct since shelving Robopocalypse last year. He had intended to direct Bradley Cooper in American Sniper but parted ways with Warner Bros. over budgetary differences (Clint Eastwood is now on board to direct that project, which should shoot this year.)

Spielberg is notorious for developing, some might even say overdeveloping, projects but not pulling the trigger. But Zaillian and Spielberg have a long history, and the two made Schindler's List into a Oscar-winning hit. It is, however, unclear what other projects Spielberg is developing in addition to Montezuma that might vie for his attention.

Also unclear is where the project will ultimately land. DreamWorks has a first-look deal with Disney and its movies are released under the Touchstone label. Disney will get first crack at the project and if it passes, Fox could be a possible home as Zaillian and his shingle, Film Rites, has their first-look there.

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