casting couch

Exclusive: Kristen Stewart Lands Lead in Lie Down in Darkness, No Word Yet on Snow White Sequel [UPDATE]

Actress Kristen Stewart arrives at the 2012 MTV Movie Awards held at Gibson Amphitheatre on June 3, 2012 in Universal City, California.
Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Kristen Stewart may have become tabloid fodder in recent days, but the 22-year-old seems decidedly committed to being taken seriously as an actress: Vulture hears exclusively that Stewart has landed the lead role in an indie adaptation of William Styron’s 1951 novel, Lie Down In Darkness. Directed by Crazy Heart helmer Scott Cooper and set in genteel fifties Virginia, Lie Down will have Stewart play Peyton Loftis. As part of a dysfunctional and disintegrating family, Peyton is constantly compared to her crippled sister, Maudie, and her intense physical beauty makes her the object of her frigid mother’s jealous hatred and the target of her father’s incestuous, alcoholic lust. (Stewart will also appear in another fifties-era film, Walter Salles’s On the Road, when it’s released in the U.S. sometime this fall/winter.)

The part of Peyton had been coveted by Jennifer Lawrence, but Lawrence will spend the better part of the next year shooting sequels. (Catching Fire ignites this fall, while a new X-Men film at Fox commences shooting in January.) Set up at Open Road Media*, Darkness has been in development for years by producer Jeff Sharp (You Can Count on Me, Proof) and while it’s unclear how soon it might start production, this is a major casting hurdle cleared.

Meanwhile, less clear is what will become of Universal Pictures’ planned sequel to Stewart’s Snow White and the Huntsman. In April, before the film’s June release, Deadline reported that David Koepp, Hollywood’s go-to screenwriter for blockbusters like Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible, and Spider-Man, had been retained to write a script for a Huntsman sequel. “The word is the studio hopes to fast track the project so that Huntsman helmer Rupert Sanders can make it the next project he directs,” wrote Deadline.

But the sequel’s future has naturally been complicated by Stewart’s admission of an affair (of some sort) with the married Sanders, her director on the film. Could (or would) the two ever reteam? A Universal source insists that “nothing has changed and we are still looking at sequel options that would include Rupert directing.”

Calls to David Koepp were not returned, but as one agency insider noted, it would be highly irregular for a screenwriter of Koepp’s renown to continue work on a project that didn’t have a director attached to oversee its progress to the screen, lending credence to the idea that Sanders remains the intended director. Agency sources say that Universal hasn’t yet sought any other candidates to replace Sanders.

Calls to Snow White and the Huntsman producers Joe Roth and Palak Patel as well as to Sander’s agents also went unreturned; Stewart’s agency declined to comment on her future film plans.

UPDATE: Some commenters have pointed to two Washington Post and Hollywood Reporter stories, claiming that they refute our post. A quick clarification is in order to point out why that’s not the case. The Post story quoted Stewart’s agent as saying this news was “premature” and though she “is ‘attached’ to play the role, there is no guarantee that, if the movie gets made, she will actually do the role.” And both this story and THR’s quote a source “close to the production” who says, “While it’s exciting to see all the interest the project is generating, the film is still in the pre-production process and no offers to cast have been made as of yet.”

Our story said that she had landed the lead role in the indie, but that it was unclear how soon it would start production. In other words, she is, as Stewart’s agent Ken Kaplan tells the Post, attached. And as for there being “no offers” to cast her, no formal offer can be made on any indie film until financing is secured. And how is financing secured? By attaching a cast, in order to attract investors; once the money comes in, they can make a formal offer. To do so without the money in place is to negotiate in bad faith.

Kaplan has to call this “premature” because otherwise it closes her off from fielding offers on other “go” pictures that aren’t in a holding pattern, waiting for financing. And sources “close to the production” need to say no one has yet been approached because they need to be able to go to someone else if Stewart’s deal can’t be reached, and then said second choice will not immediately be seen as a second choice.  

If we failed, it was in not giving you the specific detail that Stewart had “attached” to the project, rather than mentioning all of the above. In future we will make it a point of more specifically delineating “attachments” from negotiations from signed deals, though it’s worth noting that in indie film, everything is “premature” – until it’s not.

* The post has been corrected to Open Road Media from Open Road Films.

Kristen Stewart Lands Lie Down in Darkness