EXCLUSIVE: Michael Mann and Michael De Luca have acquired rights to Hue 1968, and they will shape as an event eight- to 10-hour miniseries Mark Bowden’s kaleidoscopic account of the Tet Offensive that became the turning point of American involvement in the Vietnam War. Bowden’s books have been catnip for Hollywood, and his Black Hawk Down was turned into the memorable Ridley Scott-directed 2001 thriller. Bowden worked five years on Hue 1968, which will be published June 6 by Grove Atlantic. Mann plans to direct numerous episodes of the mini and will produce alongside De Luca.
Hue, the cultural and historical capital city, was the centerpiece of Hanoi’s 1968 Tet Offensive, a surprise attack by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong that sought to win the war in one stroke. Part military action and popular uprising, NVA infantry crossed mountains, undetected, with smuggled weapons awaiting them. This set the stage for a surprise attack that overran the city except for two small military outposts.
Bowden’s book creates a tapestry that builds toward one of the bloodiest conflicts of that war, with characters that include a seemingly innocent schoolgirl on a bike, whose heart had hardened her into a revolutionary after her sister was executed and led her to help smuggle weapons; there is a radio operator named Jim Coolican, a Marine captain from Pennsylvania, who dreamed of returning to the family farm in the last days of service, but who also immersed himself in the local culture and language, and tried in vain to convince his superiors that Hue had been over-run by conventional infantry, something not thought possible (Coolican would distinguish himself in the battle); to President Lyndon Johnson in his pajamas in the White House with Gen. Westmoreland, a sleepover guest whose rosy view of progress in the Vietnam War shortly after became the subject of controversy with the leak of the Pentagon Papers. The miniseries will follow Bowden’s narrative structure that humanizes the characters and makes understandable why bloody events unfolded the way they did and made clear that Vietnam was an unwinnable war for the U.S.
Mann called the book “a masterpiece of intensely dramatic non-fiction. Bowden’s achievement is in making “them” into us,” said Mann. “We are them. There are no background people; people abstracted into statistics, body counts. There is the sense that everybody is somebody, as each is in the actuality of their own lives. The brilliance of Bowden’s narrative, the achievement of interviewing hundreds of people on all sides and making their human stories his foundation, is why Huế1968 rises to the emotional power and universality of For Whom The Bell Tolls and All Quiet On The Western Front.”
Mann, whose crime masterpiece Heat returns to theaters May 2 to commemorate a definitive director’s cut DVD, is developing several features including Ferrari — he has been talking with Hugh Jackman and Noomi Rapace about the leads — and he recently launched the literary imprint Michael Mann Books with HarperCollins. De Luca is producing the Fifty Shades Of Grey series, and is coming off producing with Jennifer Todd the 89th Academy Awards, with the duo in talks to return for the 90th Oscars early next year. He’s also producing the Battlestar Galactica film at Universal, the David Robert Mitchell-directed Under The Silver Lake at A24 with Andrew Garfield, and a film scripted by Moonlight‘s Barry Jenkins about Claressa ‘T-Rex’ Shields, who became the first American woman to win Olympic gold in boxing.
Johnny Pariseau will shepherd the mini for De Luca Productions with Justine Suzanne Jones at Mann’s Forward Pass.