EXCLUSIVE: Since the top of the year, no studio has been more aggressive in the marketplace than MGM, and it looks like it is close to landing another coveted package. Sources tell Deadline that MGM is in talks to acquire Combat Control, which tells the true story of Medal of Honor recipient John Chapman, with Jake Gyllenhaal on board to play the late war hero. Sam Hargrave, who has become one of the hotter directors in town after his action pic Extraction broke Netflix records last April, will direct the pic. His longtime collaborator Shelby Malone will associate produce. Gyllenhaal is executive producing.
The Hideaway Entertainment will co-finance, with Hideaway CEO Jonathan Gray, president Matthew Rhodes and VP Kristy Grisham producing. Hideaway executive Ryan Cassells will serve as executive producer. The film marks a reunion for Rhodes and Gyllenhaal, who worked together when Rhodes was president of Bold Films and it released the Oscar-nominated Nightcrawler, which turned into one of Gyllenhaal’s best-reviewed performances of his career.
Ron West of Thruline Entertainment is also a producer on the project. He brought the manuscript of the book Alone at Dawn, by Dan Schilling and Lori Chapman Longfritz, to The Hideaway Entertainment before the book was published. Hideaway optioned the property in a heated bidding war and was developing the script when it became a New York Times bestseller.
Hideaway recently hired Michael Russell Gunn to adapt the script. Schilling is a military consultant on the movie and, like Chapman, was also a Combat Control Technician.
Combat Control will be based on the true story of Air Force CCT Chapman, who died in battle on March 4, 2002 in Afghanistan. Following his death, no one imagined it would take over a decade for the truth of what really happened on that snowy mountainside to emerge. Fifteen years later, Air Force Captain Cora Alexander is tasked with the nearly impossible job of investigating whether Chapman is a worthy recipient of the medal, despite no eyewitnesses to his actions and the top-secret world surrounding clandestine operations. Alexander has to uncover the truth, and in revealing Chapman’s sacrifice to the world, she forges her own path to self-forgiveness and personal redemption.
When Chapman was awarded the military’s highest award on August 22, 2018, the U.S. government allowed the release of his story, and that of the classified Combat Controllers, to the public, giving the world a glimpse into the smallest, most secretive and most highly decorated unit in the U.S. military. The medal was the first awarded to a CCT in U.S. history and the first awarded to a member of the Air Force since Vietnam.
Producers are now beginning their search for the actress that will play Alexander. Endeavor Content handled the sale to MGM. Christian Simonds of Reed Smith negotiated on behalf of The Hideaway Entertainment.
The sale would mark another huge victory for the studio, which has been aggressive in the marketplace over the last couple months including deals for the Peggy Lee biopic Fever starring Michelle Williams and the Darren Aronofsky thriller Adrift starring Jared Leto.
As for Gyllenhaal, the project gives him another strong role that has the makings of a future award-season contender. Gyllenhaal also has stayed busy setting up his future slate, starting with thriller The Guilty, which reteams him with his Southpaw director Antoine Fuqua, which he finished filming last winter. He is currently filming the Michael Bay action pic Ambulance, which also stars Eiza Gonzalez and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. All of these projects he is also producing with his partner Riva Marker at their Nine Stories banner.
He also recently signed on to star in the HBO series The Son with his Prisoners helmer Denis VIlleneuve directing. He also was nominated for a Tony Award for Sea Wall/A Life and also was nominated for a Tony as a producer of Slave Play.
Hargrave’s star has been on the rise after directing the Netflix action hit Extraction, starring Chris Hemsworth. Following its premiere last April, Netflix announced it smashed weekend viewing records and the streamer quickly announced a sequel with Hargrave on board to return. Since then, every studio in town was interested in working with him after showing his skills especially when it comes to impressive action set pieces.
The Hideaway Entertainment recently financed and produced Apple TV’s Cherry (along with AGBO). Gunn is currently working on multiple Universal projects that include an original for Javier Bardem and an adaptation for Charlize Theron.
Hargrave and Gyllenhaal are represented by WME and attorney Carlos Goodman. Gunn is repped by artists first and attorney David Fox