EXCLUSIVE: Larry A. Thompson Entertainment has optioned Missing Mona Lisa, a spec script by Mark Hudelson. It’s a slightly romanticized telling of the fact-based story of how a simple Italian man stole the masterpiece when he worked at the Louvre in 1911. Vincenzo Peruggia walked out one morning with the painting, kept it at first in Paris and then returned to Italy and was outed when he revealed to a gallery owner in Florence that he had brought the Leonardo Da Vinci painting back to its homeland. The gallery owner authenticated it and called the police, who arrested Peruggia. The painting was exhibited all over Italy with great fanfare, then returned to the Louvre in 1913. While Peruggia claimed his theft was an act of patriotism, he went to jail for a short stint but was hailed as a hero in Italy and served in the Italian army in WWI.

Hudelson is an art history professor at Palomar College near San Diego and has long been obsessed with the Mona Lisa heist. In his script, the art thief is painted entirely as a romantic. “This guy was a simpleton who fell in love with Mona Lisa,” Thompson said, “and in this romanticized version, he claims that in his heart he felt she was lonely and homesick for Italy and that it was his patriotic duty since Napoleon had stolen her from the Uffizi Gallery to take her to the Louvre. He would wrap her in a red shawl and in the early evening holds her up to the window to see Florence,” he added. “It’s a beautiful story.” Thompson hopes to get the film into production this year in France and Italy and have it ready for next year.