After nearly a decade of false starts, Johnny Depp’s long-awaited action drama Shantaram finally gained ground in September when Joel Edgerton signed on to play the lead. A month of crossed fingers later, the project has attached itself to a director, as Deadline reports Warner Bros. is in early talks with Australian director Garth Davis to helm the feature, which will be produced by Depp and Christi Dembrowski’s Infinitum Nihil along with GK Films. It’s really happening! (Possibly.)
Don’t be surprised if you aren’t immediately familiar with Davis’ work, as this will be his first narrative feature. But it’s possible you’ve heard of The Sundance Channel’s miniseries Top of the Lake, for which Davis co-directed five of the six episodes with Academy Award winner Jane Campion (The Piano). And though it eventually only took home the trophy for Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie, Top of the Lake received nine nominations for this year’s Emmys, including one for Campion and Davis’ work on the fifth episode. Rightfully so, as it’s a taut mystery that starts off as one thing and becomes something else entirely.
Not only is this based on a highly acclaimed memoir, but the script was written by Eric Roth, who won an Oscar for adapting Forrest Gump, and was last responsible for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which was also nominated for an Adapted Screenplay Oscar. This is a pretty huge deal for Davis, and speaks to the confidence that Warner has in his work.
Back in 2006, director Peter Weir was attached, and while that was pretty exciting, he eventually dropped out and the film hit a seemingly endless turnaround once the Writer’s Strike (remember that?) hit. But it’s such an intriguing story that no one ever gave up on it, least of all Depp.
The country-hopping plot follows an Australian heroin addict who flees the country after escaping from prison, becoming an amateur physician before landing back in prison. Once released, he ends up running guns with freedom fighters in Afghanistan. It’s all based on the life of the memoir’s author Gregory David Roberts, who fictionalized some aspects of the book.
Because they’re just in talks, there’s no word on when this production could actually begin. Maybe Edgerton should join Guillermo Del Toro’s Mountains of Madness to see if that could get jumpstarted. Or maybe Australians only attract other Australians to projects. In any case, while you’re waiting on more Shantaram news, check out the trailer for Top of the Lake below, and catch up on all six episodes here on Netflix.