EXCLUSIVE: Jose Padilha is in negotiations to direct Entebbe for Brit production powerhouse Working Title and Euro major StudioCanal. In what is a near-perfect union marriage of filmmaker and subject, this is shaping up to be a major package likely to attract plenty of interest in the marketplace, especially as it starts casting up in the months ahead. Greg Burke, who wrote Yann Demange’s brilliant ’71, is writing the screenplay.
It’s the true story from 1976, when four hijackers — two Palestinian and two German — took a plane hostage and diverted it to land in Entebbe, Uganda, while they demanded the release of dozens of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian prisoners. The ticking-clock thriller follows the hijackers, the hostages, then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and future PM Shimon Peres trying to decide whether to negotiate or launch the raid to free the hostages, as well as the French crew led by the pilot who refused to leave when they could with the other French hostages.
Padilha, who shot to prominence with his gritty police crime tale Elite Squad — which won Berlin’s Golden Bear in 2007 — will bring his research-based documentary background to bear as he did so successfully in both Elite Squad films, his searing documentary Bus 174 and, of course, his brilliant Pablo Escobar Netflix drama Narcos. Padilha will examine the story from multiple points of view – the German and Palestinian hijackers, the Israeli (and other nationalities) hostages, as well as Israeli officials like Peres and Rabin.
Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, whose Hail, Caesar! was Berlin’s opening-night film on Thursday, will produce.
The story of the Entebbe raid and hijackings has been told before on TV and in numerous docus. Peter Finch and Charles Bronson starred in a 1976 NBC movie of the week Raid On Entebbe directed by Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back), while a rival TV movie Victory At Entebbe was produced the same year over at ABC starring Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster.
The latest project reps the first time the story will be told for the big screen by a filmmaking team at the absolute top of their game. StudioCanal has a long-standing relationship with Padilha, having released Elite Squad and also co-financing his Robocop reboot.
Padilha is repped by CAA, Anonymous Content, and attorney Sue Bodine of Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLP. Greg Burke is repped by UTA.