Woody Harrelson is being sworn in as former president Lyndon Baines Johnson in the Rob Reiner-helmed film LBJ.
Written by Joey Hartstone, the drama chronicles the Southern politician’s rise to become the 36th president of the United States. Filming is slated to begin in September in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Dallas and Washington.
LBJ centers on the political upheaval that Vice President Johnson faced when he was thrust into the presidency at the hands of an assassin’s bullet in November 1963. With political battles on both sides of the aisle, Johnson struggles to heal a nation and secure his legacy by passing the historic Civil Rights Act.
Johnson, who was known as “LBJ” for short, has become a character ripe for the screen in recent years. He was portrayed by Tom Wilkinson as a somewhat unsympathetic figure in Ava DuVernay’s Selma. He also will be tackled by Bryan Cranston in the HBO TV movie All the Way (Cranston won a Tony playing the late president on Broadway in a stage version of All the Way).
LBJ is being produced by Acacia Entertainment, Savvy Media Holdings, Castle Rock Entertainment and Star Thrower Entertainment.
The project starring Harrelson was originally developed by brothers Tim and Trevor White and is being financed by Acacia Entertainment, Savvy Media Holdings, Parkside Pictures, ITS Capital and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC).
Matthew George is producing the film alongside Reiner, Liz Glotzer, Michael R. Williams and the Whites. Executive producers include Martin Shafer, Elizabeth A. Bell, Susan Lanot, Danny Roth, Damiano Tucci, Michael Tadross Jr. and Julie May.
Voltage Pictures is handling international sales. CAA, which reps Reiner, Harrelson and Hartstone, is selling the film domestically.
“Tim and Trevor White did a great job developing this project and Joey’s screenplay truly captures the soul of Johnson as he navigates this turbulent time with a government and a country in crisis,” George said.
Added Reiner: “During the ‘60s, I was a hippy, and Lyndon Johnson was my president. At the time LBJ was the target of most of my generation’s anti-Vietnam War anger. But as time has passed and my understanding of political realities has grown, I’ve come to see LBJ in a very different light. He was a complex man, a combination of brilliant political instinct, raw strength, ambition and deep insecurities. The strength and power of persuasion that he showed to his colleagues existed alongside a soft, almost childlike quality that perhaps only [first lady Claudia] Lady Bird [Johnson] got to see. His life’s path was nothing short of Shakespearean. From the poor hill country of West Texas to the corridors of power in Washington, he used his brilliant political acumen to pass the most groundbreaking civil rights legislation of the 20th century. And had it not been for the Vietnam War, I believe he would have gone down as one of America’s greatest presidents.”
Hartstone is additionally repped by by Grandview and Jackoway Tyerman.