Oscar winner Octavia Spencer and Chronicle actor Michael B. Jordan are in various stages of negotiations to star in Fruitvale, a timely indie drama being produced by Forest Whitaker and his Significant Productions partner Nina Yang.
Ryan Coogler is making his feature debut writing and directing the pic, which tells the story of Oscar Grant, a young black man detained on New Year’s Day 2009 by the Bay Area Rapid Transit police and shot in the back and killed. The event was captured by many cell phone cameras, with the ensuing trial and its verdict causing protests and riots. Fruitvale is the name of the station where the event took place.
If deals go through, Jordan will play Grant, the 22-year-old man who crosses paths with friends and enemies, family and strangers on his last day. Spencer would play his tough and protective mother.
The project is coming together amid the controversy surrounding the Feb. 26 death of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was shot and killed by a local neighborhood watch officer in Florida.
A July production start in Northern California is being eyed for Fruitvale.
Spencer won this year’s best supporting actress Oscar for her work in The Help. Her post-win schedule is diverse: She is filming Diablo Cody’s untitled directorial debut that stars Russell Brand and Julianne Hough, in which Spencer plays a blackjack-dealing hipster lounge singer. From there she goes to the sci-fi movie Snowpiercer, then to Smashed, in which she will play a recovering alcoholic. Spencer is repped by WME and attorneys at Jackoway Tyerman.
Apart from Chronicle, Jordan was a regular on Friday Night Lights, appeared on NBC’s Parenthood and co-starred in the George Lucas-produced World War I aerial war movie Red Tails. He is reteaming with FNL producer Jason Katims for the NBC pilot County. Jordan is repped by UTA, the Schiff Co., Bloom Hergott.
Coogler, repped by WME, comes from USC’s MFA program, where he made several shorts. He developed Fruitvale within the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriting Lab.