EXCLUSIVE: Jessica Chastain to Star in 'The Wettest County'

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Shia LaBeouf officially signs on to the project, joining "Inception" star Tom Hardy in the drama.

Jessica Chastain will star opposite Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy in The Wettest County, a Prohibition Era-set drama from Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher’s Red Wagon production.

The casting puts the project, being directed by John Hillcoat (The Road) on the runway to production, with the producers eyeing a February 2011 start.

The movie has been a longtime coming together, and has remained highly coveted amongst the younger set for its meaty roles and colorful setting. The project has experimented with various acting configurations on its road to production but LaBeouf has remained the throughline.

LaBeouf had stamped Wettest as a passion project and stuck with it even as names such as Ryan Gosling, Paul Dano and Scarlett Johansson came and went as Wettest segued from being set up at a studio to fledgling indie to finally finding financing; in this case, via Michael Benaroya of Benaroya Pictures, the company behind the Sundance-bound Kevin Spacey finance drama Margin Call, and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Productions (True Grit).

The pieces came together just as LaBeouf wrapped up a long shoot for Transformers: Dark of the Moon and was looking for something more scaled down in scope yet weighty in range.

Based on the novel The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant, and on his grandfather and two great-uncles, the true gangsters story tells of the Bondurants boys, bootlegging siblings taking the law into their own hands in Prohibition-era Virginia while making a run for the American Dream.

Chastain will play Hardy’s love interest, a big city woman now living in a small town who at one time was mixed up with gangsters.

Nick Cave, who fronts the band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds as well side band Grinderman, adapted the novel and will compose the music. Cave worked with Hillcoat on The Proposition.

Paranormal Activity producer Jason Blum is exec producing with Scott Hanson via their duo’s Blum/Hanson/Allen shingle. Also executive producing along with Rob Barnum and Laura Rister of Benaroya Pictures as well as Red Wagon’s Rachel Shane. CAA reps the package.

Chastain, repped by Paradigm and Mosaic, is one of Hollywood’s rising starlets, with a slew of high-profile projects coming out in the new year. She plays Brad Pitt’s wife in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life and appears with Sam Worthington and Chloe Moretz in The Fields, a thriller directed by Ami Mann. She recently wrapped The Help, DreamWorks’ adaptation of the Kathryn Stockett novel.

LaBeouf is repped by CAA, John Crosby Management and attorney Matthew Saver.