EXCLUSIVE: Steven Soderbergh will produce with an eye to direct a feature film about the Panama Papers, the biggest leak of data in corporate and government history. Scott Z. Burns is expected to write the script, based on an upcoming book Secrecy World that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jake Bernstein is writing for Henry Holt and Company. Lawrence Grey’s Grey Matter Productions has acquired screen rights to the book and is teamed with Anonymous Content to develop, finance and produce it. Grey, Michael Sugar, Burns and Soderbergh are producing.
Sugar shared Best Picture Oscar honors for Spotlight, a movie that is a touchstone and a close cousin to the Panama Papers film, which also involved a journalistic expose of corruption and power. Bernstein and Grey Matter COO Ben Everard are the exec producers.
Soderbergh and Burns have a close collaborative relationship from the films Contagion, The Informant! and Side Effects. Bernstein was part of the team of journalists who formed the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. It was that collective that in April broke the Panama Papers, with more than 11 million records leaked, with the documents sourced from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The revelation of the documents bared the financial machinations of rulers and royalty, compete with illegal activities connected to a swam of banks and private individuals, including director Pedro Almodovar, Jackie Chan and Emma Watson. Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned immediately after the documents leaks, and the reverberations are still being felt.
Documents howed that Gunnlaugsson and his wife set up an offshore shell company in 2007 in the British Virgin Islands; he then sold his half of the company to his wife for $1 on the last day of 2009 to shield them from a new law that would have required him to declare his ownership as a conflict of interest. Bernstein won the 2011 Pulitzer for his and ProPublica cohort Jessie Eisinger’s reporting about Wall Street, ahead of the financial crisis. He co-authored the 2006 book Vice: Dick Cheney And The Hijacking Of The American Presidency with journalist Lou Dubose.
The deal was brokered by Lichter Grossman’s Jamie Feldman, along with David Patterson of the Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency and UTA, which repped Bernstein. Soderbergh is repped by Sugar at Anonymous Content and Mike Adler; Burns is repped by Sugar, UTA and Marcy Morris. UTA repped Grey as well.
Soderbergh is directing Logan Lucky, a caper film that stars Channing Tatum, Daniel Craig, Katherine Waterston, Katherine Heigl, Riley Keough, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Hilary Swank and Jack Quaid.