Focus Features has acquired the worldwide rights to “Kill the Messenger,” an upcoming film starring Jeremy Renner as prize-winning journalist Gary Webb (below), according to a Focus spokeswoman.
Focus will distribute the film domestically and sell it internationally, initiating the deal making at the European Film Market in Berlin later this week.
Michael Cuesta will direct the film from a script by Peter Landesman. Cuesta has made a quartet of films and directed several episodes of successful TV series “Six Feet Under,” “Dexter” and “Homeland.”
Webb’s life took a turn for the worse after what should have been a major professional breakthrough. He wrote a series for the San Jose Mercury News exposing how the CIA permitted Nicaragua’s Contra rebels to smuggle cocaine into the United States. The contras then used the profits to fund a war against the leftist Nicaraguan government. Webb also drew a link between the influx of cocaine and the rise of crack cocaine, a drug that devastated many American cities in the 1980s.
Webb was on the staff of the Mercury News when it won the Pulitzer Prize for General News Reporting for its 1989 coverage of the Bay Area earthquake. However, his 1996 "Dark Alliance" series about the CIA and the Contras generated significant controversy, prompting the Mercury News to back away from it and alienating Webb from the journalistic community.
Webb shot himself to death in 2004.
Renner will both play Webb and produce with Don Handfield and Scott Stuber. The film was once set-up at Universal, making the acquisition by the studio’s specialty label something of a homecoming for the project.
Deadline first reported Focus' involvement.