Updated, Aug. 8 5:23 p.m. PT
“Fast Five” director Justin Lin has signed on to direct “L.A. Riots” for Universal and Imagine Entertainment, according to both Imagine and another individual with knowledge of the situation.
Lin and Imagine have had a lot of conference calls about the project, and will work closely with a new writer to develop it further.
"He's fascinated with the underbelly, the disenfranchised," Kim Roth, president of production at Imagine Entertainment, told TheWrap. "He felt like a good fit."
The film, set in 1992 Los Angeles as violence and looting shocked and paralyzed the city, once had Spike Lee attached to direct. The director had just worked with Imagine on the well-received "Inside Man," and has tackled thorny racial topics before in films such as “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X.”
According to Roth, they loved the script from "Red Tails" scribe John Ridley, which made black list. However, the budget Lee and Imagine came up with was significantly higher than what the studio would make it for, and Lee has since bemoaned that he never got enough money to make the movie. He went on to make "Miracle at St. Anna."
Imagine co-founder Brian Grazer decided to revisit the project since this year marks the 20th anniversary of the riots, and as Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring reinviograted the debate about social disenfranchisement.
Now Lin, who holds a lot of sway at Universal by virtue of breathing new life into the “Fast and Furious” franchise, will take a crack at a more serious topic. He just began shooting the sixth installment of the street-racing action blockbuster, which opens in theaters next May.
Also read: Justin Lin Signs Production Deal with Universal
Grazer is producing "L.A. Riots," which details what transpired as a violent, civic paroxysm gripped Los Angeles for six days in April, 1992. The riots were sparked by the outcome of the Rodney King trial, in which a jury acquitted four LAPD officers who beat up King despite video evidence that they did so.
King died earlier this year at 47 after drowning in his pool, 20 years after the incident that made him a national figure.
Lin likes Ridley's script but will still work with a writer to make it his own.
"It may start as a story about race, but it's about so much more," Roth said. "It's about social disenfranchisement."
"We want a very visceral movie — the experience of what it is to be in the middle of a riot, to survive it," she added.
Though the project is due for a new script, it will be a character-driven ensemble piece that follows a diverse group of characters involved in the riots.