The Untouchables: Capone Rising
has been dealt a significant setback: due to a scheduling conflict, Nicolas Cage has turned down the opportunity to play Al Capone opposite Gerard Butler’s Jimmy Malone.

This is a big problem. Cage’s casting lent the prequel legitimacy; now, the Brian De Palma-directed prequel is in desperate need of a name (or, failing that, a presence) to match the outsized menace of Robert De Niro in the 1987 blockbuster. Though many considered the casting of Cage a ludicrous commercial concession, he was at least a talent magnet; Butler, on the other hand, might be able to snag Emmy Rossum, Paul Walker or Dominic West. Suddenly, it’s The Black Dahlia all over again.

There’s no bigger cheerleader for this project than yours truly, but I don’t want it to go forward without a talented cast. Though Butler is clearly the flavor of the month, I’ve always liked him as an actor; he’ll be fine as Malone. What we can’t have, however, is a cipher playing Capone; otherwise, you’ve got Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power. That’s why I think De Palma should chase down Billy Crudup. Stay with me here. He may seem like an earthy, soulful, non-violent kinda guy, but he’s got the chops to do something special with this role. I once watched an unprepared Crudup walk into a reading of Oedipus and nail the lead character within ten minutes; in all seriousness, he’s the closest thing we’ve got to Montgomery Clift. Moviegoers haven’t come close to seeing the best of Crudup.

But De Palma probably needs a bigger name than Crudup to get The Untouchables: Capone Rising made, so, if you’ve got any ideas, post ‘em on the message board; Brian might be reading. I’m still more interested in Redacted, De Palma’s scabrous HD take on the war in Iraq (which, according to De Palma a al Mod, might turn up at the Venice Film Festival). But I’ll take any De Palma I can get at this point. The number of filmmakers equipped with his visual fluency is diminishing by the day.