Whitaker sides with 'Debaters'


Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker continues to fill up his post-Oscar schedule. The actor is in negotiations to star opposite Denzel Washington in "The Great Debaters" for the Weinstein Co.

Washington also is on board to helm the period drama, which chronicles the true story of professor Melvin B. Tolson (Washington), who formed a debate team at a small black college in the 1930s. The team went on to beat Harvard in the national debate championships. Whitaker will play the father of one of the debaters and a rival to Washington's character.

Robert Eisele wrote the screenplay, while Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks penned a rewrite.

Oprah Winfrey, Kate Forte, Todd Black and Joe Roth are producing.

The film is scheduled to begin shooting in mid-May in Louisiana.

Whitaker, who nabbed the best actor Oscar for his role in "The Last King of Scotland," is in final negotiations to reteam with Fox Searchlight for "The Night Watchman" (HR 3/28). He is repped by WMA and the Collective.

Washington, a two-time Academy Award winner for "Training Day" and "Glory," is repped by ICM.