EXCLUSIVE: The Revenant and 12 Years A Slave producer-financier New Regency looks to have come out on top in the heated contest for screen rights to the remarkable true story of a group of boys who survived for more than a year on a deserted Pacific island.
We understand a low seven-figure deal is in final negotiations and the project will be lined up as a feature film. The firm was understood to be chasing life and book rights. UK outfit The Agency has been handling the sale.
Bregman has subsequently confirmed our scoop, tweeting an interesting thread about how the subjects of the story came to the choice of New Regency (including zoom calls in four different time zones) and how the producer has promised to “strive for cultural authenticity and work as much as possible with local crew/ filmmakers:”
As we reported on Monday, a collection of top studios and producers were in the mix for this one so it’s a coup for New Regency, who this week was also revealed to be aboard Yorgos Lanthimos project The Hawkline Monster. We hear suitors included Netflix, MGM, Anonymous Content and Working Title.
Bregman’s narrative follows how in 1965 six friends, teenagers bored with their life at a boarding school on the Pacific island of Tonga, stole a fishing boat and set off on an adventure. A massive storm destroyed their vessel and after eight days drifting on the open waters, they washed up on a remote, uninhabited island. Marooned there, the boys overcame incredible adversity, largely through team work, ingenuity and resolve. Unlike William Golding’s classic tale of savagery, this is a story about the enduring power of friendship and loyalty. The boys managed to survive for 15 months – eating fish, coconuts, and birds – before being rescued by an Australian sailor whose interest in the island was piqued when he noticed unusual burning patches on its green cliffs.
The story of how Bregman pieces the little-known narrative together is worthy of a screen version in itself or could make a nice bookend for any screen retelling. Bregman tracked down the sailor – who himself has an interesting backstory – through some nifty detective work and travels to meet him in the Australian outback. It turns out the friendship between him and the boys has endured to this day.
The Guardian article traveled far and wide. It has been read more than seven million times and shared by Russell Crowe, Taika Waititi, U.S. senator Ted Cruz and former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, among others.
Bregman tweeted at the time that he was being “bombarded with emails from producers and directors.” Following our story on Monday, the author told the Guardian that he and the five subjects of the story were “collaborating and will make a decision together,” regarding the screen rights.
The survival story has sparked the imagination of Hollywood a little like we saw with the rescue of the Chilean miners in 2010 and the Thai cave rescue in 2018.