Paul Greengrass to Direct The Trial of the Chicago 7?

Director Paul GreengrassThe last time we checked in with the production of The Trial of the Chicago 7, a film that was once in the hands of Steven Spielberg, it was currently on the back burner over at Dreamworks. Back in February, Spielberg was rumored to be putting the project on hold so that he could pursue both the comic strip adaptation Tintin and the period biopic Lincoln. This information was confirmed by the folks over at MovieWeb, who caught up with producer Walter F. Parkes just last week. It appeared, at least for the time being that the project was dead in the water, at least for the moment.

Then this evening, out of almost pure chance, I was skimming through the pages of Production Weekly, checkout which productions are currently in active development when I ran across an updated listing the The Trial of the Chicago 7. After cross checking some other participants, including writer Aaron Sorkin and Producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, I deduced that this was the same production. The only odd part was that instead of listing Steven Spielberg or no director at all, the production listed a different director: Paul Greengrass.

Yes, it would appear at least according to this report that not only is the film back in active development, but that United 93 and Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass is going to be taking over the helm for Mr. Spielberg.

As you may or may not remember, this is a project that Spielberg was working on for quite a while just after he finished work on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In an interview back in February, Vanity Fair’s Jim Windolf visited Spielberg at his Amblin Entertainment office, during which he spied some early production work on Chicago 7:

My glance strays to a side table, where headshots of actors under consideration for his likely next directing project, Chicago 7—about the conspiracy trial that grew out of protests at the 1968 Democratic convention—lie on the surface. Among them I spy Will Smith, Taye Diggs, Adam Arkin, and Kevin Spacey; Sacha Baron Cohen (as Abbie Hoffman) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (as William Kunstler) are also linked to the project, which has a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin.

That said, it would be easy to assume that the pre-production could have been moving along, but reportedly script delays have kept it off of Mr. Spielberg’s schedule since early in the spring. As for Greengrass, he is currently finishing up post production on the espionage thriller Green Zone, which stars Matt Damon. That is due out sometime in 2009. As well, Greengrass has been courted by Universal to work on a fourth film in the Bourne franchise, but no hard details have been ironed out yet.

The replacement of Spielberg with Paul Greengrass seems like a logical one, at least from the standpoint of scheduling. Greengrass appears to have a little bit more time, as he is already in post-production on his 2009 film with no other immediate projects to speak of, whereas Spielberg has a full boat. And of course, it being the weekend and all, it is going to be hard for us to get any confirmation on this — but don’t be surprised if you see a story in Variety sometime next week announcing Paul Greengrass as the new director of The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Also, for those not completely familiar with the project, here is the official synopsis:

Based on the 2007 documentary “Chicago 10,” by Brett Morgen. At the 1968 Democratic Convention, protesters, denied permits for demonstrations, repeatedly clashed with the Chicago Police Department, who waged a week-long terror campaign that resulted in riots witnessedlive by a television audience of over 50 million. The events had a polarizing effect on the country. Needing to find a scapegoat for the riots, theGovernment held eight of the most vocal activists accountable for the violence and brought them to trial a year later. The defendants representeda broad cross-section of the anti-war movement, from counter-culture icons Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin to renowned pacifist David Dellinger.Seven of the defendants were represented by Leonard Weinglass and famed liberal attorney William Kunstler, who went head-to-head withprosecution attorney Thomas Foran. The eighth defendant, Bobby Seale, co-chair of the Black Panther Party, insisted on defending himself andwas bound, gagged and handcuffed to his chair by Judge Julius Hoffman. From the start, the trial was a circus with the eight defendants on acollision course with the governmental authority.