EXCLUSIVE: While the current movie discussion about U.S. presidents centers around Truth and whether George W. Bush pulled strings to avoid Vietnam, the producers behind San Andreas and Sicario want to tell the story of another president whose bravery in battle helped save crew members after their ship was destroyed during Word War II. Beau Flynn and Basil Iwanyk have teamed to acquire and produce Mayday 109, a script by Samuel Franco and Evan Kilgore that tells the true story of what happened when the PT boat captained by future president John F Kennedy was smashed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer.
Flynn’s FlynnPictureCo produced the summer hit San Andreas and Iwanyk’s Thunder Road Pictures produced the Denis Villenueve-directed Sicario. Each pursued the spec separately and they decided to team up. They describe the script as an intense story of heroics and survival led by a man who would go on to become one of the world’s most revered figures. They are looking for a director, and an actor to play the young JFK. Kent Kubena and Taylor Zea will oversee for Thunder Road. Scott Sheldon will oversee for FlynnPictureCo. They’ll set it up at a studio shortly.
Kennedy was the commander of a patrol torpedo boat on the prowl for Japanese destroyers in August 1943. After a battle with several Japanese ships, PT 109 was inadvertently rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagin, and that was the beginning of a harrowing week for the future president. Two died in the explosion, and Kennedy gathered the rest of the men — some were burned, others had swallowed fuel-soaked seawater, and two others couldn’t swim — and tried to salvage the ship but could not send rescue flares for fear of drawing the enemy. After the vessel went down, Kennedy organized his men for a three-mile swim to an island. His experience as a Harvard swim team member came in handy as he lugged an injured shipmate kept afloat with a life preserver. After finding the island, Kennedy swam to another island looking for rescuers, nearly drowning on the return leg. He made several harrowing trips before he and his shipmates engaged friendly locals and after scrawling an SOS on a coconut, they were finally located by rescuers.
Kennedy, who won medals and qualified for a Purple Heart, was sanguine about his heroism, saying “It was involuntary. They sank my boat.” But the story found its way to The New Yorker and Reader’s Digest and later, it helped his launch into politics. It was also previously done as a film with Cliff Robertson playing JFK in PT 109 in 1963.
Franco & Kilgore are managed by Jeff Portnoy of Bellevue Productions and Mia Chang & Brehan Fitzgerald of Brio Entertainment.