JFK Biopic Coming From Armageddon Time Director James Gray

The largely autobiographical film "Armageddon Time" (read our review here) from director James Gray starring Jeremy Strong, Anne Hathaway, and Anthony Hopkins arrives in theaters this weekend. Gray isn't wasting any time getting his next project off the ground, with Deadline reporting that MadRiver Pictures has hired Gray to direct a biopic about John F. Kennedy that will focus on the former president's military career. The as-yet-untitled project plans to follow a young JFK who longs to distinguish himself and prove his worth to his powerful father. The story will chronicle JFK's harrowing true adventures in WWII when a Japanese destroyer sank his patrol boat and left Kennedy and his men shipwrecked. 

Gray, who just received a Gotham Awards nomination for Best Screenplay, will rewrite a script from Samuel Franco and Evan Kilgore. Pre-production on Gray's next film, "I Am Pilgrim," is currently underway, so production on the biopic will begin sometime next year. 

"It's an honor to be on board this project with the fantastic producing team at MadRiver," remarked Gray. "JFK is a figure that's captivated the attention of the world for decades, as an American president, an ally of the Civil Rights movement, and a cultural icon. But this is a unique opportunity to sweep away the myth and explore a side we don't know at all." 

Kennedy was always reluctant to glorify his actions and rarely mentioned his accolades, which included receiving a Purple Heart. A New Yorker article famously reported on JFK's bravery, helping to craft the legend of Camelot, and turn a young, unassuming soldier into an American icon. 

Who could play a young JFK?

If the account of JFK's heroic efforts in WWII sound familiar, the story has been adapted before in "PT 109," named after the vessel JFK commanded at the time of the attack. Actor Cliff Robertson played Kennedy in the popular 1963 film that came out in theaters just 5 months before President Kennedy was fatally shot in Dallas, Texas. 

Out of the Hollywood stable of actors that exist today, who would be a good fit to play JFK now? Most portrayals of Kennedy take place during his more formative years, so some of the actors have aged out of the role at this point. James Marsden played Kennedy in "The Butler" and Michael C. Hall recently took on the role in "The Crown" to reenact the famous 1961 visit to Buckingham Palace with First Lady Jackie Kennedy. Actor Brett Stimely even underwent hours of prosthetics to shake the hand of Dr. Manhattan in "Watchmen."

Gray has already worked with Charlie Hunnam and Tom Holland in the adaptation of David Grann's bestseller "The Lost City of Z" about British explorer Percy Fawcett's obsessive search for a mythical city in the Amazon. That film could have the most in common with a potential JFK biopic from Gray considering that it's an adventure movie on the surface and a story about the relationship between a father and son upon further investigation. Family dynamics are a constant throughline in Gray's work, seen in earlier films like "We Own the Night" and big-budget sci-fi fare like "Ad Astra." A story about JFK seeking approval from his father that springboards into a WWII survival epic should be a perfect fit for Gray. Casting won't happen anytime soon, but Tom Holland may want to wait by the phone.