Scott Cooper’s followup to 2009’s Crazy Heart has been making a lot of headlines lately due to all of its impressive casting announcements. Out of the Furnace is a movie about an ex-con trying to get his life together after getting out of prison. Unfortunately, the world is a tough place to live in, and bad things happen. So when the protagonist’s little brother gets caught up in some shady dealings that have an unfortunate end, he finds himself in a situation where he has to turn his new leaf back over to the dirty side, in order to seek revenge.

A huge chunk of the cast has already been filled out by signees that were made official just a few days ago. Christian Bale has long been locked for the role of the lead character, Russell. And after his casting came names like Casey Affleck, who’s playing the little brother who meets a tragic end, Zoe Saldana, who is the Bale character’s love interest, and Sam Shepard, who’s all set to play his uncle, Red. Only one thing’s left: who’s going to play the villain?

Every good crime movie needs a good bad guy, and with the cast that Out of the Furnace already has in place, not just any old actor will do for this one. You bring in somebody unestablished—without any chops—and he’s going to shrink when standing next to screen presences like Bale and Affleck. No, this movie needs a big damn personality, and if a report from Variety is to be believed, it looks like they’ve found one.

Word on the street is that Woody Harrelson is negotiating to take the role of Curtis DeGroat, the ringleader of the shady sorts that Affleck’s character gets crossed by, and the main target of the Bale character’s revenge. Harrelson is a phenomenal actor who can just ooze sleaziness and macho idiocy when he wants to (see, Rampart), so his casting in any villain role would have always been considered great news. But seeing as he just became known to a whole new generation of eyeballs due to his involvement with the big cultural phenomenon of the moment, The Hunger Games, Harrelson enters this project as perhaps the biggest star he’s ever been. Could we be seeing the beginning of a career renaissance for the veteran actor, one that will potentially rocket him to the top of the mountain when it comes to Hollywood leading men? And if so, is this the right project to be the next step in that process?

Who knows… but it’s fun to think about.


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