Gary Oldman joins Washington in "Book of Eli"

Gary Oldman poses for photographers as he arrives for the premiere of the film "The Dark Knight" in New York, July 14, 2008. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Gary Oldman is in negotiations to star opposite Denzel Washington in “The Book of Eli,” an action thriller that returns the British actor to his more villainous side.

It centres on a lone hero named Eli (Washington) who must fight his way across the wasteland of a near-future America to protect a sacred book that might hold the key to saving the future of humanity.

Oldman will play Carnegie, the despot of a small makeshift town deficient of standard necessities, services, and most noticeably, laws. Carnegie is determined to take possession of the book Eli is guarding.

Albert and Allen Hughes are directing the project for Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment. Filming is due to start February in New Mexico with an eye towards a January 2010 release date.

Oldman, who played the bad guy in such films as “Dracula,” “The Professional” and even “Hannibal,” has spent recent years portraying good men in the “Harry Potter” and “Batman” movies.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter