George ClooneyWhat will George do next? With his latest movie, The American, hitting theaters today (read Todd Gilchrist's review), and his follow-up, Alexander Payne's The Descendants, in post-production, George Clooney is ready to return to the director's chair. Farragut North will finally begin shooting in February, according to New York Magazine's Vulture, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti set to play featured roles.

It's a project that's been gestating for several years. In 2007, Leonardo DiCaprio was all ready to star as an idealistic campaign worker who's corrupted by the system; Clooney was attached to direct. Instead, DiCaprio made Body of Lies and Revolutionary Road the following year, and Clooney directed Leatherheads and starred in Burn After Reading. Reportedly, Clooney is considering Chris Pine to take the starring role; Pine has the advantage of playing the part in a Los Angeles stage production last year.

Hoffman will play the idealist's "hard-bitten" boss, a role that was once considered by Brad Pitt, while Giamatti will be in the enemy camp as the campaign manager of a rival candidate. Other actors under consideration include Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. Vulture says the production is seeking independent financing.

When the project was first announced, it seemed it would tie in very well with the 2008 presidential campaign. If it starts filming in February, it could be ready for release in fall 2011, which should give it a head start on the 2012 presidential campaign. Of course, political chicanery is in season any time of year.

The more interesting question to me is, What will George do with the material? So far, the movies he's directed -- Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Night, and Good Luck, and Leatherheads -- have all been period pieces and had distinct, striking visual styles. What will he do with a straightforward, modern-day political drama?