EXCLUSIVE: Annapurna has set The Shallows helmer Jaume Collet-Serra to direct Waco, a drama scripted by Zero Dark Thirty’s Mark Boal and Kubo and the Two Strings’ Marc Haimes about the 1993 standoff between the FBI and Texas state law enforcement and the David Koresh-led Branch Davidians that turned the sleepy town of Elk, just outside of Waco, into a battle zone. A 51-day standoff ended with 76 people dead as the cult’s compound was engulfed by a raging fire.
The film will be produced by Annapurna and Page 1, the producing shingle Boal set at Annapurna after Zero Dark Thirty that is producing the upcoming Kathryn Bigelow-directed Detroit, the drama about the 1967 riots and uprising in Michigan’s largest city that Annapurna will release August 4. Boal will produce Waco with Megan Ellison and Matthew Budman, along with Page 1’s Hugo Lindgren and Jon Leven.
Boal confirmed the film to Deadline and said the hope is to start production later this year, with casting to get underway shortly and several strong roles in the ensemble including Koresh and the elite FBI agents tasked with stopping him. Collet-Serra, the Spanish director who broke into Hollywood with the genre hit Orphan, followed with the hits Non-Stop and The Shallows and has upcoming the 2018 Liam Neeson starrer The Commuter. Boal said that the filmmaker has been an unsung hitmaker who is ready to take the step up to a period drama that has relevance to the political maelstrom that has engulfed the Trump administration.
“Waco was a turning point in history in the battle between the FBI and the far right in America,” Boal said. “It is a collision between a militant faction, the Second Amendment and the right to religious freedom. Many said this cult was not bothering anyone; this is about what the FBI and Justice Department perceived as a threat, and why and how the FBI came in and crushed it.”
The film covers the buildup of the Branch Davidians, a sect that broke from the Seventh-ay Adventist Church and was led by the shadowy but charismatic Koresh, and the primary FBI agents tasked by the Justice Department to bring to heel what law enforcement considered a dangerous cult that was suspected of stockpiling weapons. It started with a search warrant from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and escalated into intense gunfire when the ATF raided the ranch that resulted in the deaths of four government agents and six Branch Davidians.
The standoff ended when the FBI raided the compound to force the Branch Davidians out of their headquarters, after which the fire resulted. A Justice Department investigation concluded that Koresh and his followers started the blaze.
“Jaume is a filmmaker who has proven himself to have a strong connection to mainstream audiences,” Boal said. “His work also shows a high level of artistic ambition, and this is an opportunity to combine those elements in telling a story that started in a small Texas town and reached up to the highest levels of government.”
Page 1 separately is producing Triple Frontier, the film that Boal scripted and JC Chandor will direct. It came loose from Paramount, and Netflix and others have engaged in talks to pick it up, possibly with Ben Affleck and Casey Affleck in the starring roles. Page 1 also is working on a limited series about the 2016 presidential election. Boal won two Oscars for writing and producing The Hurt Locker.
Collet-Serra and Boal are repped by CAA and Management 360; Haimes is repped by WME