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Denzel Washington in Talks to Star in Universal’s Safe House

How do you hang on to a superstar client whose longtime talent agent has just passed away? You put him to work for a lot of money on a hot project, and you do it fast. That's what William Morris Endeavor appears to be doing: Denzel Washington's agent of the last twenty years, Ed Limato, passed away over the weekend after a long battle with lung disease, but insiders say that WME agency co-CEOs Ari Emmanuel and partner Patrick Whitesell had been working hard to cement the Washington relationship in the months before, in part by promising to deliver hot, original material and big paydays. Now it appears they're poised to deliver both: Vulture hears that Washington, who historically has commanded around $20 million for big studio movies, is in negotiations to star in Universal Pictures's Safe House, an original spy thriller written by David Guggenheim that sparked a bidding war this past winter.

Set in South America, Safe House follows a young U.S. intelligence agent who must go on the run with a newly arrived prisoner (Denzel’s potential role) after his titular safe house comes under attack — think of a mix between Collateral and Three Days of the Condor.

Guggenheim, who wrote the screenplay while toiling as an Us Weekly editor, joins his two brothers in the scriptwriting trade: Marc wrote both The Green Lantern and The Flash at Warner Bros. Pictures, while Eric wrote 2004's Miracle and is currently a writer on NBC's Parenthood.

Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images