Paul-Thomas-Anderson-and-Joaquin-PhoenixOf all the films currently in development, Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice is very much one of my most anticipated.

The project has been in development for a couple of years now, with Robert Downey, Jr. circling the lead role of Doc Sportello back in February 2011.

But now THR report that Downey, Jr. has ultimately passed, and that Joaquin Phoenix is now in talks to reunite with Anderson for the feature.

The two of course worked together on last year’s The Master, which has been earning awards and nominations left, right, and centre. Phoenix’s performance has earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in the upcoming Academy Awards, and both Anderson and Phoenix, along with co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman, came away from its Venice debut with prizes in-hand.

So the possibility of a reunion between the two is naturally very interesting.

We heard a report earlier in the month that Charlize Theron is circling a role in the film, which we imagine would be that of Shasta Fay, Sportello’s ex-girlfriend, who sets the events of the novel in motion. But for now that report remains unconfirmed.

Courtesy of Waterstones, here’s the synopsis for Pynchon’s original novel, Inherent Vice:

“Part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon – private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog. It’s been awhile since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly out of nowhere she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. Easy for her to say. It’s the tail end of the psychedelic sixties in L.A., and Doc knows that ‘love’ is another of those words going around at the moment, like ‘trip’ or ‘groovy’, except that this one usually leads to trouble. Despite which he soon finds himself drawn into a bizarre tangle of motives and passions whose cast of characters includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, a tenor sax player working undercover, an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a fondness for Ethel Merman, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists. In this lively yarn, Thomas Pynchon, working in an unaccustomed genre, provides a classic illustration of the principle that if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there…or…if you were there, then you…or, wait, is it…”

Anderson gave a little update on the film late last year, saying that he intends for it to be his next film, following The Master. Without confirming one way or another, some more recent comments have also suggested that Pynchon himself may have had a hand in the writing of the screenplay alongside him, working even closer than we initially imagined. We knew that the incredibly reclusive author had given Anderson his seal of approval, but the possibility that he’s been involved with the screenplay itself is beyond awesome.

Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures is set to fully-finance the movie, which Anderson will produce alongside Ellison, John Lesher, and JoAnne Sellar.

No word yet on when we can expect Inherent Vice to go into production or arrive on the big screen, but we’re keeping our fingers tightly crossed that it might shoot this year for release sometime next year. Whenever it lands, it’s going to be awesome. More as we get it.