Variety is reporting that Michael Shannon has signed on for The Current War, where he’ll play electric pioneer George Westinghouse, long-time rival of Thomas Edison. Shannon will star opposite Benedict Cumberbatch, who’s playing the famed inventor and electricity mogul, as the two wage a dirty trick-filled battle over whether the Westinghouse-backed alternating current, or Edison’s direct current, would power America’s new-found addiction to electricity. Me And Earl And The Dying Girl’s Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is set to direct.
“The War Of The Currents” has been the subject of a lot of disinformation over the years—including the popular belief that Edison personally electrocuted an elephant to show the dangers of alternating current. In truth, the death of Topsy happened years after both the “war” and Edison’s retirement, and was merely filmed by a crew from the Edison Manufacturing movie company. (Edison Electric did conspire to get AC used in the nation’s first electric chairs, though.)
Shannon’s most recent film is Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, where he plays cowboy lawman Bobby Andes. (Opposite Jake Gyllenhaal, who was originally suggested as a possible choice for the Westinghouse part.) His upcoming projects include Potterville, with Christina Hendricks, and Guillermo Del Toro’s Cold War thriller The Shape Of Water.