EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures is in final talks to acquire The Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare: How Churchill’s Secret Warriors Set Europe Ablaze And Gave Birth To Modern Black Ops, a book rights package that got a three-party bidding war going last week. It’s a period fact-based WWII tale that The Fighter co-writers Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson pitched around town. Jerry Bruckheimer will produce this one for the studio. This is a seven-figure commitment, between the fees for the writers and the rights to UK author Damien Lewis’s book. Besides The Fighter, the scribes wrote Boston Strong, a project about the Boston Marathon bombing, and The Finest Hours, a Craig Gillespie-directed Coast Guard rescue tale that Disney just wrapped with Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Eric Bana and Casey Affleck in the ensemble. Bold and Lionsgate were the other suitors I heard were in the mix.
This tale takes place in 1939, when the Brits were being pounded by Germany in mainland Europe, and Winston Churchill wanted to hit back hard. His answer: stop fighting under accepted gentlemanly rules of engagement, and create a group of warriors who became the first ‘deniable’ secret operatives to strike behind enemy lines. They were basically Britian’s first black op unit. Members were recruited, knowing they were likely to be killed. They became a very tight knit group and their worked spanned WWII. They won important victories against the Nazis, breaking all the accepted rules of warfare in the process and using deception and even the bow an arrow to dispatch the enemy. There are elements here of The Dirty Dozen, Inglourious Basterds and Mission: Impossible, and I’m told they undertook so many missions–kept top secret until recently– that there is more than enough here to spawn multiple movies.
Geoff Stier will oversee for Paramount, Melissa Reid and Chad Oman for Bruckheimer.
CAA, Gotham Group, UK rep Curtis Brown Group Ltd. and Nelson Davis rep the writers and brokered the deal.