EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow in recent weeks has been preparing and starting to cast an indie movie with the working title Kill Bin Laden, while another movie project about the hunt for the Al Queda terrorist leader at a major Hollywood studio stalled back in 2006. Given tonight’s startling news, it’s clear that these may be the timeliest film projects in recent Hollywood history. And judging from tonight’s showbiz phone calls coming into Deadline about Osama bin Laden’s death, I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie studios are anxious to bring these projects to the big screen as soon as possible, updated with the details behind tonight’s successful military mission. Have you seen those spontaneous cheering crowds that formed tonight outside Washington DC’s White House and in NYC’s Times Square as well as around major American cities and small towns? If a patriotic film about this story can tap into these feelings of first helpless horror and then widespread frustration and then successful closure, it could be a real winner at the box office.
Bigelow and Mark Boal, her collaborator on The Hurt Locker, have been mobilizing their film to go into production as their follow-up to that Best Picture Academy Award winner. Their movie as planned was based on an earlier unsuccessful mission to try to kill the Al Qaeda leader responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attack on America as he hid in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But now they’ve certainly got a celebratory ending to that dramatic story with tonight’s announcement that the U.S. conducted a military operation that killed Bin Laden. Mind you, reps for Bigelow have told me previously that this movie isn’t specifically about the Al Qaeda leader. A lot of details about this film are stilll sketchy and secret, but I’ve heard that Megan Ellison, daughter of Oracle chief Larry Ellison, is ready to fund it. I heard as recently as Friday that Bigelow and Boal were courting Joel Edgerton for the lead actor. Edgerton had been on the short list for two Universal Pictures movie projects in the works, The Bourne Legacy and Snow White And The Huntsman.
Meanwhile, back in 2006, Paramount Pictures optioned Jawbreaker, a book by U.S. intelligence operative Gary Berntsen about the December 2001 American-led military mission to hunt and kill Bin Laden right during the opening stages of the 9/11-prompted invasion of Afghanistan that the author as the CIA pointman had helped coordinate with Special Operations Forces. The heavily vetted book detailed how close those forces came to finding and executing Bin Laden in the rugged mountains of Tora Bora until they were pulled back after a decision was made to let Pakistan tribal leaders lead the search — a decision experts felt helped Bin Laden get away. The studio hired The Path To 9/11 scribe Cyrus Nowrasteh to rewrite a first draft by Berntsen’s co-author Ralph Pezzullo, and Oliver Stone had eyed it as a follow-up to his film World Trade Center. But the project stalled. I’ve learned that, when Stone’s movie version of the book didn’t work out, Paramount discussed using the hunt for Bin Laden subject matter for a relaunch of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character made famous in books and movies like The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, Clear And Present Danger, and The Sum Of All Fears. But that plan stalled as well.