Denzel Washington and Tom Cruise will face off in a big-budget adaptation of “The Matarese Circle,” a thriller based on the novel by Robert Ludlum.
Cruise is in final negotiations to take on the role of the Russian spy Vasili Taleniekov, mortal enemy of American intelligence operative Brandon Scofield, to be played by Washington.
Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg (“Eastern Promises”) will direct the potential globetrotting franchise for MGM.
The “Matarese” storyline follows two arch-enemies who are forced into a distrustful collaboration against a wide-reaching political conspiracy orchestrated by a mysterious organization called the Matarese.
Ludlum drew inspiration from David Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission in the 1970s. But Cronenberg and “Wanted” scribes Derek Haas and Michael Brandt have updated the timeframe from the Cold War to a contemporary setting.
“Matarese” represents a return to the high-tech action milieu that served Cruise well in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise. He most recently starred in the World War Two thriller “Valkyrie,” which has grossed $139 million worldwide.
Cruise, a partner in MGM’s United Artists division, had been considering several projects, including the Spyglass Entertainment thriller “The Tourist” and the Universal comedy “Food Fight.”
MGM and independent financier Relativity Media spent about $4 million for the “Matarese” book and writer package in April, with Washington attached to star. Relativity is no longer involved in the project.
Ludlum wrote a follow-up to “Circle” in 1997 called “The Matarese Countdown,” but MGM does not have the rights to it. the late author is a good gamble for MGM, especially with international draws on board like Washington and Cruise. The “Bourne” trilogy, also derived from Ludlum novels, grossed $945 million worldwide for Universal. Several other Ludlum properties are in development at Paramount, Universal and Summit.