Ben Affleck Directing Historical Drama King Leopold’s Ghost

Ben Affleck

by James White |
Published on

Even with his duties on upcoming Ridley Scott film The Last Duel (he's co-writing and will also appear on screen), Ben Affleck is filling up his list of new potential films to direct. He's also got World War II pic Ghost Army sitting there and he's now adding King Leopold's Ghost. While Affleck was apparently drawn to the Africa-set subject because of his own activism, you do have to wonder if he just googled titles with "ghost" in them?

Apocalypto's Farhad Safinia is writing the script, which adapts Adam Hochschild's book King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story Of Greed, Terror And Heroism In Colonial Africa. As the title suggests, it's not a sunny tale, and draws from historical fact. The film will chart the time when European countries were racing to find ways to carve up the natural resources of Africa. Leopold became the world’s richest man with billions stashed in secret bank accounts by gaining private ownership of the Congo Free State, and inserted a mercenary army to cruelly plunder rubber and ivory. He forced the locals to harvest it. Those who refused were dismembered or worse, and the book estimates that as many as eight million were killed in this ruthless pursuit.

It's also an account of the Congolese who defied Leopold II and fought back. Their heroic plight sparked a daring and unlikely alliance between a black American missionary, an English investigative journalist and an Irish spy that shone a light on the horrors and gave birth to the first human rights movement. Once photographs were made public, Leopold’s charade of spreading Christianity in the heart of darkness was exposed as a greedy ruse, and the king was assailed by the likes of Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Conrad, whose disgust with Leopold’s “civilizing mission” led to writing Heart Of Darkness.

Martin Scorsese and regular producing partner Emma Koskoff-Tillinger are on board to help shepherd the movie, but it's not yet known if Affleck will direct it next as he's also got a film about a McDonald's Monopoly scam in the works and plenty of acting gigs to keep him busy. He pops up briefly in Kevin Smith's Jay And Silent Bob Reboot (out 29 November) and has sports redemption drama Finding The Way Back arriving on 13 March.

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