After the debut of last year’s criminally underseen and severely underrated Warrior, writer and director Gavin O’Connor did manage to find one major silver lining – the adoration of scads of brand new fans who loved his film and wanted to see more of his work. Fortunately, while Warrior went without much of the notice it deserved, O’Connor has not, as the filmmaker has been steadily lining up work in the months since the film hit theaters.

Next up, Universal Pictures has picked the director to helm Yakuza, “a contemporary Japan-set thriller” that focuses on “an American intelligence expert who becomes embroiled in the affairs of a notorious yakuza godfather and finds himself plunged into the violent criminal underworld and toxic landscape of post-tsunami Japan.” The film’s script was penned by Chap Taylor (Changing Lanes), but O’Connor will now rewrite it, along with Josh Fagin. Imagine Entertainment and Brian Grazer are producing. While that storyline sounds a bit done-before, setting it in a modern time period adds some intrigue and, paired with O’Connor’s knack for getting emotional performances out of beefy brawlers, Yakuza could end up being something special.

O’Connor already has a full plate, though it’s become less and less clear just which project he’s taking on next. In September, he and Michael J. Wilson sold a spec script called The Samurai to Warner Bros. At the time, O’Connor was rumored to be taking on that project, which focused on a criminal named Townes Joyce who escapes prison and finds himself chased across the world, as his next directorial outing. But he’s also attached to direct the Channing Tatum-produced and Billy Ray-scripted Neverland (a revisionist Peter Pan tale) and he’s working on turning Walter Tevis’ novel “The Hustler” into a stage play with his Warrior co-writer Anthony Tambackis (O’Connor would direct the play as well).

Whatever O’Connor takes on next, if it’s half as good as Warrior, audiences are in for a treat. [Deadline Montreal]


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