Russell Crowe has stepped in to replace Brad Pitt in political thriller State of Play, after the Fight Club star withdrew from the project.

The part was 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 McCaffrey, reports claim.

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

While it is unclear whether Universal studios are to take legal action against Pitt for withdrawing from the film, Variety claims 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 tentpole releases for Universal.

Last King of Scotland helmer Kevin McDonald is to direct, while Edward Norton will star as the up-and-coming politician whose links to a murder Crowe's McCaffrey uncovers.

Rachel McAdams, Jason Wright Penn and Dame Helen Mirren also feature, though 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.

04/12/2007 10:37:38