From 1993-2004, it seemed like author John Grisham couldn’t write down a list of his favorite fruits without someone trying to turn it in to a movie. Since then, Hollywood hasn’t seen any of Grisham’s novels put to screen, though there have been many attempts. Now Fox2000 is trying to end the drought, as Deadline reports that the studio is moving forward with their planned adaptation of Grisham’s bestselling legal thriller (of course) The Racketeer, published last year by Doubleday, and they’ve hired screenwriter Frank Baldwin to do the adapting.
There wasn’t a lot of downtime for this project, as it was back in February when the company had initially attracted Safe House director Daniel Espinosa to direct it. But when those negotiations hit a snag and Espinosa moved on, the project was left alone. Until now.
If Baldwin’s name isn’t familiar to you, don’t worry. This would be his first screenplay to make it through production, unless one of his others got put into production very quickly. He wrote two highly touted scripts some years back that made the Black List. One of them, The Art of Making Money, was once supposed to be a DJ Caruso project with Chris Pine starring, but that hasn’t seen any positive updates in years. Baldwin also wrote When Corruption was King, an adaptation of former Mob attorney Robert Cooley’s memoir, which had Mark Wahlberg attached at one point.
The Racketeer takes place after the murder of Judge Raymond Fawcett, only the fifth federal judge to be murdered in U.S. history. He and his secretary’s bodies are found in a remote lakeside cabin with no evidence to point police in the right direction towards the killer. One man, however, named Malcolm Bannister, knows who killed the judge, and even knows what the motive was. The problem is Bannister is currently locked up in a federal prison in Maryland. But for the right price, he just might share his information.
I haven’t read a Grisham book in many years, so I can’t speak to the quality of the novel personally, but I’m intrigued by the story, and it’s earned quite a few positive blurbs. Hopefully a decent director grabs the reins and pulls in a great lead. I still have nightmares about Chris O’Donnell’s presence in The Chamber.
As far as Grisham adaptations go, I don’t think anything will beat the powerfully melodramatic A Time to Kill from 1996 (certainly failing in that department are 2004’s Christmas With the Kranks or The Firm’s shortened series run on NBC). But I’m optimistic that The Racketeer might just have the legally bound suspense that hasn’t had a strong presence in recent films. Check out the book’s launch trailer below to get you a little more interested.