MacDonald must be getting an ulcer. His follow-up to The Last King of Scotland, State of Play, has been anything but smooth sailing even before a frame of film is shot. The script got rewritten a number of times, going between writers all the way up to the strike. Then star Brad Pitt, unhappy with the latest draft, up and quit the movie. That created a major panic, since the film needed to get started by a certain date in order to accommodate all the other actors. A flurry of activity saw MacDonald just about on his hands and knees, begging Russell Crowe to replace Pitt. The actor agreed and it seemed like the bad days for State of Play were over.

Not. Now Ed Norton has quit the movie and MacDonald is back in last minute negotiations mode, trying to get Ben Affleck into the role. Norton was one of those actors whose schedules were so unforgiving that any change in State of Play‘s shooting would present a problem. That problem became presented when the film was pushed back to a January start date for Crowe. Apparently the exit is amicable, unlike with Pitt, where Universal made lots of noise about suing the actor.

So for those playing at home, Ben Affleck is now a rising politician caught up in a murder investigation. Russell Crowe is now the investigative journalist who once worked on the politician’s campaign and is now romancing his wife. The rest of the cast, including Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn and Jason Bateman have not yet quit, although apparently things are looking tight on Mirren’s schedule. That sounds so dirty.

Here’s to hoping this all works out. I liked but did not love The Last King of Scotland, and Hollywoodland and Gone Baby Gone have put me squarely back in the Ben Affleck camp, so I’d like to see him doing more good work and getting recognition for it.