EXCLUSIVE: HBO Films has made a book and life rights deal so that The Sopranos star James Gandolfini can play another New Jersey guy. This time, he’s attached to play Bobby Egan, owner of a Hackensack rib joint who became involved in back channel negotiations with North Korea to stop producing nuclear weapons. HBO Films has acquired the book Eating with the Enemy: How I Waged Peace With North Korea from my BBQ Shack in Hackensack, by Egan and Kurt Pitzer. The pic is a co-production between Tribeca Productions and Gandolfini’s Atta Boy Productions banner.
Egan, wanting to make a difference, started his unlikely diplomat role by knocking on the door of the North Korean Consulate near the UN and saying, “I want to be your friend.” That led Egan to live a double life out of Being There. Calling himself “Kim Jong Il’s guy in New Jersey,” Egan made four trips to North Korea. After he became the only Westerner appearing in North Korean politburo photos, he was initially considered a controversial figure in the US State Department. But he became a helpful conduit in backdoor nuke talks. In the end, his close friends in the North Korean consulate were recalled to their home country, the underground diplomacy stopped and Egan went back to running his rib joint. Hotchkiss and Associates made the deal.