EXCLUSIVE: Producer Doug Belgrad, director-producer Rod Lurie, and writer Scott Conroy have teamed up for an untitled film based on the true story of how independent journalist and blogger Clare Rewcastle Brown blew the lid off of the Malaysian 1MDB financial swindle, which became one of the biggest public corruption scandals in history.
Conroy has adapted the screenplay from Brown’s book The Sarawak Report. Lurie, the former journalist/critic who last helmed The Outpost, will direct the film, and will also produce alongside Belgrad and his Sony-based, 2.0 Entertainment production banner. Sony will get first look at the project.
The 1MDB scandal involves the fleecing of billions of dollars of Malaysian taxpayer money, a big chunk of which has never been recovered. The scheme was originally uncovered by the courageous work of the intrepid and fearless Englishwoman who was born and raised in Malaysia and decided she could no longer tolerate the corruption and environmental degradation wreaked upon the islands of her birth.
Brown’s reporting and years-long relentless pursuit of the truth was key to shining a light on the corrupt players, which put her squarely in the crosshairs of powerful global forces. During her blogging, she was followed in London by agents working for the Malaysian government. She was harassed online, and at one point the FBI warned her of a credible threat on her life. The Malaysian government even issued an arrest warrant on Brown as the 1MDB scandal blew up.
From her kitchen table, Brown revealed the illegal activity that not only went to fund the lavish, Gatsby-like lifestyle of Jho Low, the young, wildly ambitious Malaysian national of Chinese descent who masterminded the plot — and who is still at large — but also the Malaysian prime minister, his wife, their nine-figure cache of jewels, real estate, clothes, and designer handbags, a $1 billion political slush fund, and even the Oscar-nominated Martin Scorsese-directed The Wolf of Wall Street, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort. Along the way, Goldman Sachs – whose most senior executives in the region were found to be complicit – would be forced to pay over $5 billion in settlements to the US and Malaysian authorities.
In bringing these events to light, Brown’s dogged reporting encouraged heroic, honest local authorities to become sources and to take up the case. One of them, the Deputy Attorney General, became her deep throat and would later be killed. Her reporting and that of the WSJ reporters would lead to massive changes in Malaysia, including the electoral defeat and criminal conviction of the prime minister.
“Clare Rewcastle Brown is a bona fide journalistic hero in the spirit of Woodward and Bernstein,” said Lurie. “In order to expose the immense corruption she uncovered, she gave up journalistic glory by handing her sources and information over to the Wall Street Journal because they had far greater reach. Movies are movies because of women like her – people who fight for justice without selfishness and at enormous personal risk. It will be an honor to tell her story.”
Said Belgrad: “There is a great tradition of movies focused on the quixotic lone warrior taking on the powerful. Clare’s attachment to Malaysia, the place of her birth, and her bone deep aversion to injustice pushed her to discover and reveal the audaciously corrupt conspirators who were looting the country. Her remarkably brave reporting made her a national hero, even as menacing forces threatened her and those connected to her crusade. We couldn’t be more excited to tell her story.” Belgrad most recently produced the hits Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, and Bad Boys for Life.
Conroy, the former political reporter who created and exec produced the award winning Rami Malek narrative podcast Blackout, is repped by CAA, Kaplan/Perrone and attorney Tara Kole; Lurie, who is currently developing for Lionsgate West Pointer as a star vehicle for Riverdale‘s KJ Apa, is repped by A3 Artists Agency and Gang Tyre.