Angelina Jolie‘s “Unbroken” isn’t the only movie that “300: Rise of an Empire” star Jack O’Connell is testing for, as he’s also in contention for the young lead in Matthew Vaughn‘s “The Secret Service,” TheWrap has learned.
While John Boyega (“Attack the Block”) and Christian Cooke (Cemetery Junction”) are also in the mix, O’Connell is considered the frontrunner for the coveted role, though “Unbroken” would take priority should Jolie offer him the part.
Vaughn is mounting an adaptation of Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ popular Marvel comic, which will star Oscar winner Colin Firth as a veteran secret agent who leads a young protege into the shadowy spy business. Millar has described “Secret Service” as “James Bond meets My Fair Lady.”
O’Connell has already tested for the role of Firth’s nephew and insiders close to the process tell TheWrap that it went well, though they caution that Vaughn hasn’t made a final decision yet.
The director had been eyeing his “Kick-Ass” star Aaron Taylor-Johnson for the role but his casting is considered a long-shot.
Vaughn’s Marv Films banner is financing “Secret Service” and handling development in England, where O’Connell has earned a strong fan base thanks to his turn on “Skins.” He also starred in such British hits as “This Is England,” “Eden Lake,” “Harry Brown” and “Tower Block.”
Jolie’s “Unbroken” is based on the bestselling book by “Seabiscuit” author Laura Hillenbrand. O’Connell is one of three actors testing to play American track star Louis Zamperini, who lived an incredible life that included surviving a plane crash only to become a POW in a Japanese prison camp during WWII.
O’Connell’s competition for “Unbroken” includes Dane DeHaan and Alexander Dreymon, though it’s possible Jolie could go in another direction and widen her search. Universal is distributing “Unbroken,” which was recently rewritten by the Coen brothers.
What’s interesting about these two projects is that Jolie’s partner, Brad Pitt, produced Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass” and starred in the Vaughn-produced thriller “Snatch.” It’s still early in the casting process, but it’s possible both Jolie and Vaughn could pursue O’Connell’s fall slot.
20th Century Fox plans to release “The Secret Service” on Nov. 14, 2014. Vaughn, who last directed “X-Men: First Class” for Fox, is producing and directing from a script he co-wrote with frequent collaborator Jane Goldman. Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass 2” producers David Reid and Adam Bohling are expected to be involved in a producing capacity. Shooting is scheduled to start this August overseas.
O’Connell was originally set to star in WB/Alcon’s “Beautiful Creatures,” but a visa issue stemming from legal trouble prevented him from shooting the film in America. He was eventually replaced by Alden Ehrenreich.
Warner Bros. will release “300: Rise of an Empire” on March 7, 2014.
O’Connell is repped by Conway van Gelder Grant and CAA, which had no comment several weeks ago when TheWrap first inquired regarding his screen test.