Before poker became a part of my daily life, I’d always been infatuated with gambling movies. The first hour of Casino remains my favorite, I never believed it when Mel Gibson pulled a one outter at the end of Maverick, and The Sting fools me every time. Even newer, lesser movies like 21 or Lucky You pulled me into the theater and, of course, Rounders is like gospel. So, Lay the Favorite, based on the novel by Beth Raymer, sounds right up my alley. The story of a young Ohio girl who becomes professionally involved with underground sports betting will be, as had been previously announced, a reteaming of High Fidelity screenwriter D.V. DeVincentis and director Stephen Frears and now, it seems Rebecca Hall and Bruce Willis are close to landing as their leads. Read more after the break. Deadline is reporting that Willis and Hall are both close to taking roles in the film, which will be produced by Focus Features and Random House Films. However, Willis is also possibly starring in Wes Anderson’s new film and Hall is up for Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby, even though she’s no longer the front runner so it’s not yet set in stone.

When the film was announced, screenwriter DeVincentis spoke about what drew him to the project as well as its similarities to his first teaming with Frears, High Fidelity.

It’s a less violent, less sketchy version of the mob. This is the version of 50-year-old math geeks from Queens in basketball shorts who have pet guinea pigs….[The gamblers] have an intense pride in a very specific expertise — and a lack of socialization.

Here’s the Amazon description of the book.

It’s hard not to like the breezy, ingenuous voice of this plucky protagonist who proves she’s game for any kind of new experience. Hailing from Ohio, Raymer eventually made her way to Las Vegas when she was 24 and found a lucrative position assisting a Queens-born, Stuyvesant High School-educated gambling operator, Dink Heimowitz. The lovable, irascible, big-bellied Dinky had shucked life as a bookmaker back in New York, having run into trouble, for professional sports gambling; he put Raymer and the other motley staff on the phones setting up bets for all kinds of sports matchups (baseball, football, horse racing, hockey) in order to find a line that gave him an edge. Dinky referred Raymer to a high-flying bookie on Long Island, Bernard Rose, who had his own offshore network. As girl Friday Raymer fetched doughnuts, placed calls, and acted as a runner, making wads of dough, but mostly Raymer cherished working among the assortment of gambling types, the low-end hustlers and misfits she chronicles with evident tenderness.

While High Fidelity might be the best example, Frears and DeVincentis have both exhibited the ability to portray strong female characters in male centric worlds. It was a record shop for both in them in High Fidelity, politics for Frears in The Queen and assassins for DeVincentis in Grosse Pointe Blank. It seems like they are a great fit to this light, breezy material with such a strong female lead. And Willis and Hall certainly could pull it off.

Do you think these two actors seem suitable for the roles described in the book description? And now that this project is coming together, is your interest piqued at all?

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