Disney-owned Searchlight Pictures has picked up E. Nicholas Mariani’s 2018 Black List script The Defender. The project has Sterling K. Brown (Frozen II) set to star with George Tillman Jr. (Luke Cage) directing.
According to Deadline, the film is centered around heroic lawyer Scipio Africanus Jones. Jones was a courageous attorney who risked his life and career to defend 87 men wrongfully accused of murder in the wake of the Elaine, AR massacre of 1919, when a group of Black sharecroppers meeting in a church about unionization were attacked by a posse organized by white landowners.
Brown will produce the project with 21 Laps’ Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen. Mariani and Danielle Reardon will executive produce with Dantram Nguyen, Katie Goodson-Thomas and Richard Ruiz overseeing for Searchlight. Ben Wilkinson, VP Business Affairs and Legal Counsel, negotiated the deal for Searchlight along with WME and CAA on behalf of filmmakers.
The Defender becomes the second project George Tillman Jr. directs with The Walt Disney Company, he recently wrapped production on the Disney+ original basketball series The Crossover.
Sterling K. Brown is also no stranger to Disney, having starred in such hits as Marvel Studios’ Black Panther and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Frozen II, both films hit one billion dollars at the box office.