Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Amazon Studios are gearing up to take on the Ku Klux Klan.
In a competitive situation, Amazon has acquired feature film rights to the period drama K Troop, which has Gordon-Levitt set to produce and potentially star in. Set in the post-Civil War period, the film chronicles the rise of the KKK in the American South in 1865 and the man who led the U.S. Army’s elite K Troop that stomped out the group in 1871. The white supremacist organization later rose again in 1915 and flourished nationwide in the early and mid-1920s, evolving from its anti-black philosophy to a broader opposition to Catholics and Jews. The third incarnation of the KKK emerged in the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and continues to this day, with a new emphasis on anti-immigration.
K Troop is based on a Slate article by Matthew Pearl. Gordon-Levitt will produce through his hitRECord Films banner. The project is currently in search of a writer.
Gordon-Levitt is developing the project with an eye to star as Major Lewis Merrill, the leader of the division. An enigmatic man and brilliant military strategist, Merrill built an sprawling network of informants, including a number of local African-Americans, who risked their lives to piece together the secretive workings of the KKK.
The pic comes at a time when race has been a hot topic in Hollywood. The film Birth of a Nation, which takes place about three decades before K Troop, created a stir at the Sundance Film Festival when it sold to Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million. The Ku Klux Klan has been in the news in recent weeks, with provocative anti-immigration rhetoric and endorsing Donald Trump for president. The group also was involved in a demonstration over the weekend in Southern California that turned violent, with KKK members fighting with counter-protesters. Five people were injured, and 13 people arrested.
Gordon-Levitt is no stranger to controversial subjects. He stars in Oliver Stone’s upcoming Snowden, in which he plays the exiled CIA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified U.S. government information and fled the country.
K Troop marks the latest splashy deal for Amazon Studios, which recently bought Woody Allen’s next movie for $15 million and nabbed seven films at the Sundance Film Festival including the awards-season hopeful Manchester by the Sea for $10 million.
Gordon-Levitt most recently was seen onscreen in the comedy The Night Before and the true story-based The Walk. The actor is currently developing a big-screen take of 1980s musical puppet series Fraggle Rock at New Regency and will star opposite Channing Tatum in an untitled musical comedy that he hatched for Universal (Marc Platt is producing).
Gordon-Levitt is repped by WME and Jackoway Tyerman.
Pearl is the author of five novels, which have been international best-sellers translated into more than 30 languages, beginning with his literary thriller The Dante Club. His nonfiction writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Atavist Magazine.