EXCLUSIVE: How did Warner Bros win the most hotly contested book auction in a long time, closing a deal last night for It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life Of Love And War, the memoir of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Lynsey Addario? I’m hearing they were in a dead heat with several other suitors, until they executed the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass to get Steven Spielberg. Warner Bros, led by Greg Silverman, Racheline Benveniste and Julia Spiro, was squarely in the mix, especially after Spiro engaged Jennifer Lawrence, whom Warner Bros badly wanted to make a movie with. Despite that, there were other viable choices. That included The Weinstein Company, which had Smokehouse partners George Clooney and Grant Heslov producing (they would have enlisted Lawrence to play Addario).
That was when Lazar had the idea to call Spielberg, who nearly directed Lazar’s most recent film, American Sniper. This seemed a long shot, to have a busy filmmaker like Spielberg respond while an auction was moving toward a close. But Spielberg committed to the Warner Bros package within days, giving the studio an unbeatable hand –and an edge over other pursuers, which included Working Title vying for Oscar-nominated Wild star Reese Witherspoon, and Darren Aronofsky for his Oscar-winning Black Swan star Natalie Portman. I’m told the book rights went for $500,000 against $2 million, making this the most hotly contested book title so far this year, and a big sale for ICM Partners’ Ron Bernstein. A team effort at Warner Bros gives the studio a potential event film in the topical mold of American Sniper.