EXCLUSIVE: Steven Spielberg, Matt Charman and Marc Platt, who worked together so memorably on Tom Hanks Cold War-starrer Bridge of Spies, are re-teaming for a feature project about legendary newscaster Walter Cronkite for Amblin Partners. The project will focus on Cronkite’s relationship with the Vietnam War and the role that America’s most trusted newsman played in turning public opinion against the increasingly un-winnable conflict. So influential was the CBS Evening News anchor that then-President Lyndon Baines Johnson is believed to have remarked, ““If I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”
Charman pitched Spielberg the idea while the two were on the awards season circuit for Bridge of Spies. It’s still early days in terms of Spielberg committing to directing- Charman needs to write the script first- but this is mouth-wateringly rich material for a master filmmaker like Spielberg. Were the most iconic baby boomer of all to end up directing, it would mark the first time he tackle this turbulent chapter in America’s modern history. 1968 was a year of great upheaval in the U.S., with the assassinations of Dr Martin Luther King and Senator Robert F. Kennedy; the violence witnessed at the Democratic convention in Chicago and, of course, the ongoing war in Vietnam. Cronkite had already journeyed to Vietnam once before in 1965 in a carefully stage-managed visit designed to prove to him and other attending media that progress was being made. In 1968, however, Cronkite returned to South East Asia to see the war for himself and the consequences of the Tet Offensive. What he found convinced him, in his own words during his special report, to say, “It seems now, more certain than ever, that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.” That devastating sentence shifted the tide of public opinion against the war and only weeks later LBJ announced he would not be running for re-election in that year’s Presidential race.
That moment also revolutionised network news in America. It was arguably the first-ever editorialised, opinionated report on U.S. televised news, heralding the age- years later- of the 24-hour-news cycle and mass media machine around us today. The plan is for Charman to write the original idea and Platt producing with a view to this becoming a potential directing vehicle for Spielberg. Charman will also exec produce. This would go through the Amblin/Dreamworks pipeline.
Spielberg, who has The BFG coming out July 1, is gearing up to start filming on the big budget Ready Player One, with Ben Mendelson, Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke in the cast. As revealed by Deadline, Spielberg is set to follow up that with The Kidnapping Of Edgardo Mortara, an adaptation of the the book by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Kertzer that Tony Kushner has adapted. Mark Rylance, who won the Best Supporting Oscar for Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies and who plays the title character in Spielberg’s The BFG, will star as Pope Pius IX. Spielberg and Platt are also teaming up with Kristie Macosko Krieger to produce this with production set to begin in early 2017 for release in the fourth quarter of that year.
Published in 1997, The Kidnapping Of Edgardo Mortara recounts the story of a young Jewish boy in Bologna, Italy in 1858 who, having been secretly baptized, is forcibly taken from his family to be raised as a Christian. His parents’ struggle to free their son becomes part of a larger political battle that pits the Papacy against forces of democracy and Italian unification.
Charman is the man with the golden touch right now, following on from his breakthrough work with Spielberg on Bridge Of Spies. He is working with Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson and Fox 2000 on YA-inflected Wilderness. He has written a heist film for Matt Reeves at Fox with Reeves and Tobey Maguire producing. He has also sold Lethal, a TV pitch to CBS with Carl Beverly and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones producing. Charman’s three-parter Black Work aired on ITV last year to strong reviews and ratings. Amazon also just picked up the pilot for Strange New Things, an event sci-fi TV series that Kevin MacDonald is directing and Left Bank is producing. The project is an adaptation of Michel Faber’sThe Book Of Strange New Things, which was critically praised upon its release in 2014, with the Guardian newspaper calling it, “astonishing and deeply affecting.” He is also exec producing Alcatraz at Paramount and Eichmann at MGM, both with Automatik and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones.
Platt also has a full slate. Most recently, he partnered with video game maker Sega to develop and produce a feature film based on its video game franchise Shinobi. He will work with Sega and Hakuhodo DY Group’s production arm and joint venture Stories International, Inc. on the property.Shinobi is a series of video games that has been around since 1987 so it is well-known among gamers. Shinobi means “ninja” in Japanese. It is a warrior game that usually involves swords and knives and, of course, fighting the next big boss. It originally began as an arcade game. He also has three of this fall’s most eagerly-anticipated films coming out in Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Damien Chazelle’s Hollywood musical La La Land and Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train.
Charman is repped by CAA, Independent Talent Group, Grandview and attorney Gretchen Rush of Hansen, Jacobson. Spielberg is repped by CAA.