EXCLUSIVE: In a high-six against seven-figure deal, 20th Century Fox has acquired Defection, a spec script by Black Hawk Down scribe Ken Nolan based on a Robert Littell Cold War novel redrafted to have a topical edge. While Fox finally announced that Stacey Snider started today, I’m told that she was all over this Friday night, working with Emma Watts and Matt Reilly to tie it down when it became a competitive situation. Hutch Parker will produce and Dan Wilson will be executive producer. They developed the spec with Nolan, who has made some of the biggest script deals in town during the past few years.
This one is timely: A mid-level intelligence contractor defects to North Korea and takes a mysterious bag with him. In the immediate aftermath of the bungled Edward Snowden situation, the CIA is determined to avoid a repeat and brings in a somewhat washed-up, albeit highly charismatic case officer trained during the Cold War who is an expert in defections to help them solve a case that soon proves to be more complicated than the modern class of CIA spies are equipped to deal with.
Nolan, who previously turned Littell’s The Company into a limited TNT series, pitched this book to no avail until he was blue in the face, before deciding to work with the producers on a script that moved the venue of the novel from Cold War to contemporary. Nolan just turned in a revision of Rockets Red Glare to Sony and producer Neal Moritz, and he’s currently adapting for director Scott Cooper and Lorenzo di Bonaventura a film about the heroic Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighter crew that perished in an Arizona wildfire last year.
Nolan’s repped by CAA, Kaplan/Perrone and attorney David Colden. Littell is with RWSG.