Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Hip-hop, R&B, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More

Bookmark and Share

LOS ANGELES — About three years ago, screenwriter Mark Boal was keen on a book called “Kill Bin Laden.” The memoir, purportedly written by a member of the Delta Force using a pseudonym, tells of U.S. special forces’ attempt to root out the terrorist leader from Afghanistan’s Tora Bora district after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow, who were collaborating on a then-little-known Iraq film, “The Hurt Locker,” were intrigued both by the manhunt and the ways Osama bin Laden had eluded capture. They optioned the book’s rights, then went on to finish “Hurt Locker,” for which Bigelow and Boal both won Oscars in 2010.

News of bin Laden’s demise at the hands of U.S. forces has now thrust the duo’s project — which was due to begin shooting in the coming months — directly into the Hollywood limelight, and the filmmakers into a predicament: How should they adjust the story, if at all, to take into account the latest developments?

On one hand, bin Laden’s death suddenly offers the filmmakers the opportunity for an uplifting ending of sorts for American audiences — something that’s been in short supply in post-9/11 military movies. But with nearly everyone on Earth now knowing how the bin Laden story concludes, sustaining suspense could be a challenge, said one studio executive speaking on condition of anonymity.

There’s another problem: The book focuses on a very different pursuit, many years ago, in the caves of Afghanistan. Bin Laden, of course, met his end in 2011 in a large, $1-million house not far from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.

A person familiar with the project speaking on condition of anonymity said that filmmakers now plan a happier ending than that which capped the script previously, but declined to offer specifics. The person added that the movie will not be called “Kill Bin Laden” and will include “new context” that comes both from the news development and intelligence and defense agents whom Boal had been talking to along the way. Boal did not respond to an email seeking comment, and Bigelow, via a representative, declined to comment.

Boal and Bigelow do have at least one advantage when it comes to timing: Their film is not a major studio project, which frequently get bogged down amid a need for consensus on creative and financial issues among many players. Megan Ellison, the daughter of Oracle software magnate Larry Ellison, is financing it, and the casting of the lead male role was under way when the Bin Laden news broke.

Ellison did not respond to a request for comment, but the person familiar with the project said the filmmakers still intend to shoot as early as this summer. The young producer still has a substantial sum hanging in the balance; when it was circulating earlier to Hollywood studios, the film had a budget of $20 million to $25 million, according to one executive familiar with the pitch.

Despite the movie world’s infamous lag time between development and release, some Hollywood insiders said that it’s possible for the film business to tap into the popular interest in Bin Laden. But they cautioned that to attract an audience, a film would need to be made with broad action elements and a minimum of nuance. (Nuance, some in Hollywood have argued, is what doomed the box-office fortunes of a host of Iraq and Afghanistan war movies at the box office, including “Rendition,” “A Mighty Heart,” “Stop-Loss” and even “Hurt Locker.”)

“You need a big star and a lot of action, something the audience can cheer for,” said one longtime studio marketing executive not involved in the project.

The Boal-Bigelow film wasn’t the sole bin Laden-related project kicking around Hollywood prior to Sunday’s announcement of his death. There’s long been a project at Paramount based on a book from CIA officer Gary Berntsen about the bin Laden manhunt — Oliver Stone was at one point looking to direct it — but it’s unclear if the news would infuse it with new life.

One action movie in the works that might be ripe for a bin Laden plot element is the film based on the TV show “24,” due out in 2012. In the television series, Kiefer Sutherland plays a shrewd and lethal government counter-terrorism agent, Jack Bauer, and his story lines often paralleled current events. Plot details for the movie, to be directed by Tony Scott, are still coming together, but fans seemed to be sending Scott a message on Sunday night: Shortly after President Obama announced bin Laden had been killed, “Jack Bauer” was a trending topic on Twitter.

But others in Hollywood, including Bryan Singer, who directed “Valkyrie” — the 2008 Tom Cruise movie about an elite group conspiring to kill Hitler — said they saw in the bin Laden saga a chance for something more detail- and character-driven.

“I could see a kind of ‘All the President’s Men,’ where we track moments of intelligence and how agents followed the trail,” he said. “Just because we know how the story ends doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting or exciting.”

Related Articles
By PopMatters Staff
18 Dec 2013
As home video spins off into various immediate options -- streaming, simultaneous theatrical and digital release -- there are still many gems to uncover in the increasingly obsolete format.
11 Apr 2013
Director Kathryn Bigelow asked questions to which she didn't have the answers, reminding us about the way in which arts and politics are deeply interconnected.
7 Mar 2013
While people were killing and dying, what did it matter whether there were decent songs being sung, insightful films being produced, appropriate art being inspired? When did poetry ever stop a war?
By PopMatters Staff
27 Jan 2013
From popcorn perfection to animation experimentation, foreign finesse and good old Hollywood hokum, 2012 delivered the shiny cinematic goods and then some. Here are our choices for the titles that took on the challenge, and won.
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks

© 1999-2015 All rights reserved.™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.