Laura Dern And Jack O'Connell Join Trial By Fire

Laura Dern and Jack O'Connell

After bringing Jack Reacher back to screens, Ed Zwick is looking to another crime story, but this one based on a very real, tragic case. He's added Laura Dern and Jack O'Connell to Trial By Fire.

Geoffrey Fletcher, who won an Oscar adapting Precious, has written the script for the film, adapting David Grann's 2009 New Yorker article, itself an award-winner.

O'Connell will play Todd Willingham, a poor, uneducated young father of three with a devotion to heavy metal, a violent side and a criminal record. He was convicted of triple homicide when a fire, tagged as arson, swept through the family home. But after spending 12 years on death row, he found an unlikely friend and champion in Elizabeth Gilbert (Dern), a Texas housewife.

Zwick tells Deadline that he's been chasing the chance to make this one for some time. "From the moment I read David’s brilliant reporting eight years ago, I have been possessed by this deeply moving, true story of injustice," he says. "David Grann has been one of these caught-in-the-roller-of-his-typewriter guys, quietly doing great work, and now all these wonderful things are happening with his stories being made into movies, from Killers Of The Flower Moon to the Robert Redford piece Old Man And The Gun. The story was all there, with these two compelling characters. It is a remarkable story about people. Not just capital punishment but justice, which is a very important word right now. It has to have that pull to keep you pushing it up the hill this many years." He'll start the cameras rolling this October in Atlanta.

Dern, who will appear in the current run of Twin Peaks, also has Alexander Payne's Downsizing on the way, and will next be seen in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, out on 15 December. O'Connell has the long-delayed Tulip Fever finally coming out, and is the star of new TV Western series Godless, due to hit Netflix either later this year or early next.