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Julia Roberts, Sean Penn to Star in Watergate Series ‘Gaslit’ at Starz

Armie Hammer and Joel and Nash Edgerton previously exited the project

Starz has picked up the Watergate drama “Gaslit,” starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn, the premium cable channel said Monday.

Penn is set to star as Richard Nixon’s loyal attorney general, John Mitchell, with Roberts playing Mitchell’s Arkansan socialite wife, Martha.

Based on Slate’s “Slow Burn” podcast, the anthology series project previously had Joel Edgerton attached to direct and star alongside Roberts and Penn. But Edgerton and his brother, Nash Edgerton, exited the series ahead of its pickup at Starz, as did Armie Hammer. An individual with knowledge tells TheWrap the three departed several months ago due to scheduling conflicts. Hammer and Joel Edgerton’s roles are being recast.

“Gaslit,” which is scheduled to begin production this spring, is described by the studio as a “modern take on Watergate that focuses on the untold stories and forgotten characters of the scandal — from Nixon’s bumbling, opportunistic subordinates, to the deranged zealots aiding and abetting their crimes, to the tragic whistleblowers who would eventually bring the whole rotten enterprise crashing down.”

Sam Esmail, Matt Ross and Robbie Pickering are executive producing the series, with Ross set to direct and Pickering acting as showrunner. The series hails from UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group, where Esmail has an overall deal.

The network describes Roberts’ Martha Mitchell as “a big personality with an even bigger mouth” who becomes “the first person to publicly sound the alarm on Nixon’s involvement in Watergate, causing both the presidency and her personal life to unravel.”

Penn’s Mitchell, Nixon’s most trusted advisor and best friend, will be portrayed as “temperamental, foulmouthed and ruthless — yet hopelessly in love with his famously outspoken wife.”

“Gaslit” was created by Robbie Pickering and is written by Pickering, Amelia Gray, Alberto Roldán, Anayat Fakhraie, Uzoamaka Maduka and Sofya Levitsky-Weitz. Executive producers include Ross, Pickering, Esmail, Chad Hamilton, Roberts, Gabriel Roth and Josh Levin. Leon Neyfakh, who created the podcast, will consult on the project. Starz’s executive vice president of original programming Karen Bailey is overseeing the series.

“In ‘Gaslit,’ we not only have the opportunity to tell an incredible untold story in bringing Martha Mitchell’s historic role in Watergate to the forefront, but we are also incredibly lucky to have a dream cast including Julia and Sean and the best creative team and partners we could have asked for,” said Christina Davis, President of Original Programming for Starz. “We could not be more excited to bring this story to the global Starz audience and continue the network’s commitment to spotlighting premium stories that appeal to women while super serving our core audience.”

“I’m so happy to have the opportunity to share the heartbreaking, fascinating story of Martha Mitchell with the world,” said showrunner and executive producer Robbie Pickering. “Martha was the first and loudest voice to speak out against the bumbling criminality of a crooked Presidential administration and she was one of the most complicated public martyrs of the era. To find anyone willing to tell her story is a dream. To be making it with Sam, Julia, Sean, Matt, UCP and Starz seems impossible. I’m over the moon.”

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