Ben Affleck eyes Arizona territory

He'll helm adaptation of murdered reporter's tale

In the annals of journalism, most people's memories begin and end with the publication of the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate investigation. But if some serious-minded Hollywood filmmakers have their say, a third will be added to that vaunted list: the Arizona Project.

Ben Affleck is in negotiations to follow up his directing debut, "Gone Baby Gone," with the story of the death of Arizona journalist Don Bolles and the events it provoked. Sheldon Turner ("The Longest Yard") has written the screenplay.

Producer Sean Bailey ("Matchstick Men") found the story -- mostly forgotten outside Arizona -- and brought it to Turner and Affleck, who developed a pitch and sold it to Miramax.

In 1976, Bolles was a reporter for the Arizona Republic looking into political corruption and the convergence of New York, Chicago and Detroit mobsters in Phoenix. When lured to a downtown hotel by a source who didn't show up, Bolles was blown up in his car. He died days later.

The group of elite national journalists that Bolles had been trying to organize at the time, Investigative Reporters and Editors, responded to the murder by convening dozens of investigative reporters in Phoenix from 23 different newspapers and launching an unprecedented crusade to finish Bolles' work. Although the result involved 40 articles exposing corruption in the state, many criticized the effort as vigilantism, including former presidential candidate and Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.

Cori Stern is executive producing. Justin Springer at Idealogy brought the project into the company.

Turner, who is repped by CAA, is working on the Enron story "Conspiracy of Fools" with director Robert Schwentke for Warner Bros. and "X-Men Origins: Magneto" with director David Goyer for Fox.

Bailey and Affleck, both Endeavor clients, have several other projects in development together. Affleck will next be seen on camera in the New Line comedy "He's Just Not That Into You" in February.