Ben Affleck is believed to be the latest addition to the cast of political drama State of Play.

Brad Pitt has already left the project - an adaptation of Paul Abbott's BBC drama - and due to a scheduling conflict his Fight Club co-star Edward Norton has also been forced to withdraw.

According to Variety, Affleck is to replace Norton as a politician embroiled in a murder.

Russell Crowe stepped in to replace Pitt earlier this month as the journalist investigating the scandal, reprising a part originated by British actor John Simm in the acclaimed BBC series, for which Bill Nighy earned a best actor BAFTA.

Pitt's departure last month had jeopardised the project in light of the ongoing Hollywood writers' strike, but Crowe has now been signed to play investigative journalist Cal McAffrey.

It is thought that Pitt had grown frustrated with multiple rewrites, which had conflicted with his initial vision for the adaptation.

His departure caused a postponement in filming, leading to a clash with Norton's upcoming Leaves of Grass and provoking his withdrawal and the reported casting of Affleck.

While it is unclear whether Universal studios are to take legal action against Pitt for withdrawing from the film, Variety claimed Crowe was their first choice as a replacement.

After production is wrapped on State of Play, Crowe will begin shooting Nottingham, his third consecutive picture for the studio, with American Gangster having started the trio of major releases for Universal.

Last King of Scotland helmer Kevin McDonald is to direct, while Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn and Dame Helen Mirren also feature.

However Mirren is up against a tight schedule with shooting due to begin on Love Ranch - with Joe Pesci and directed by her husband Taylor Hackford - immediately afterwards.

19/12/2007 12:49:52