EXCLUSIVE: Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road has acquired screen rights to the Steven Pressfield hybrid history The Lion’s Gate: On The Front Lines Of The Six Day War. The producer will use the book as a template to tell the story of how Israel, faced with extinction as Jordan, Syria and Egypt prepared to attack, routed the enemy in less than a week in 1967 with a brilliant battle plan. By the time the smoke cleared, Israel had gained hold of three times as much land as it started with, taking over the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, and Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall that was part of the ruins of Solomon’s Temple, real estate that hadn’t been in Jewish hands for 1900 years.
Though a period tale, it certainly is a topical one, because the repercussions are still felt today in the constant tension between Israel and its neighbors. Considering the preoccupation in Hollywood with the clashes in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinians and the vociferous support for the former in Hollywood, I’m surprised that this story hasn’t been told in a major feature. Pressfield tells the story from the vantage point of the soldiers who fought in the air and on the ground, as friendly political rivals Moshe Dayan and Ariel Sharon led the country to victory at a time when Israel was isolated after France had cut off arms shipments and other allies did little to slow the Arab forces pressing Israel from all sides. Considering all this, the results were considered something of a miracle. While Pressfield has written about the battlefield strategies of Alexander the Great in The Virtues Of War, and the Spartans defending Thermopylae in Gates Of Fire, and there he had to rely on recorded history and his imagination, this is more like his WWII book Killing Rommel. He had a lot of input and fresh research.
Iwanyk will look to set a writer shortly after acquiring the book out of his development fund. Formerly based at Warner Bros, Iwanyk has made several offshore deals that allow him the latitude to buy and develop what he wants. He picked up the Pressfield book to read for pleasure, and seeing how Hollywood had avoided the tale, he figured this was a title he could simply enjoy without having to ponder the film aspect of it. By the time he finished, he was hooked, and made the deal with Pressfield’s rep, Jody Hotchkiss and Hotchkiss and Associates.
Pressfield has previously had Bagger Vance turned into a film, and for years there were high hopes for an epic movie adaptation of his book Gates Of Fire. That effort was thwarted by 300, but the book is coming back around as a potential small screen project. Iwanyk just produced the Keanu Reeves-starrer John Wick, and has the Jeff Bridges-starrer Seventh Son, the Denis Villenueve-directed Sicario and the Alex Proyas-directed Gods Of Egypt percolating.