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George Clooney Looks to Chris Pine, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti for His Next Directorial Effort, Farragut North

Three years ago, George Clooney announced his intention to direct a big-screen adaptation of the off-Broadway play Farragut North, a political drama about campaign dirty tricks written by former Democratic political operative Beau Willimon. Now it seems like Clooney is finally electing to do it: Vulture hears that he plans to start shooting this February, and a cast that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, and possibly Chris Pine is coming together.

Willimon (who also wrote the initial draft of the movie adaptation) was inspired to write the screenplay after his work campaigning for Howard Dean in 2004. Accordingly, the story is set in Des Moines, Iowa, just weeks before the state’s Democratic caucuses officially commence; it follows the exploits of a twentysomething presidential campaign spinmeister/wunderkind named Stephen Myers, and the dirty pool he plays to get his candidate the nomination against a rival senator. Leonardo DiCaprio was once attached to play the role of Myers, but appears to have backed out; sources tell Vulture that Clooney is planning to offer the role to Star Trek's Chris Pine, who received accolades when he played the part in last year's L.A. stage production.

Brad Pitt had originally wanted to do the play's other major role: Paul Zara, Myers's hard-bitten veteran boss on the trail. However, with a packed schedule that may prove this impossible, Hoffman has agreed to step in.Giamatti is set to play the campaign manager of the rival candidate, and Clooney has offers out to Evan Rachel Wood (to play a teen staffer with whom Myers has a sexual dalliance) and Marisa Tomei (for the role of a probing journalist). We also hear Clooney plans take a small role in the movie; the only one left seems to be that of the candidate himself, who is never seen in the stage version and is a minor character in the screenplay.

Sources tell us that the reps for Clooney — who is based at Sony — are now in negotiations about a distribution deal for the film. Insiders are quick to note, however, that Sony won't be picking up the check for the movie: Instead, while Clooney leans to the left, this production will be running as an independent. Talks are afoot with French indie financier Philippe Rousselet (who's also producing the Jake Gyllenhaal-thriller Source Code at Summit Entertainment) about possibly footing the bill, with Sony only distributing the finished product.

Still, even if Rousselet doesn't write a check, finding funding with this cast shouldn't require kissing a lot of babies.

UPDATE: A spokesman for Rousselet's company, the Paris-Beverly Hills-based Vendome Pictures, emailed Vulture to say that while Vendome execs did read and consider the Farragut North script like many other financiers in Hollywood, they have passed on the project and have not been in discussions about financing it.

Photo: Todd Williamson/WireImage