EXCLUSIVE: Luke Harding writing book for Guardian Books; studios and indies in the mix for film rights.
The Guardian is publishing its own book about fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden, which is among the Snowden books garnering attention from studios and independents for film rights.
The previously unannounced book, due to be published by Guardian Books, is being authored by writer and Guardian correspondent Luke Harding, who previously co-wrote one of the two WikiLeaks books on which DreamWorks’ The Fifth Estate is based.
Screen understands that the book will explore The Guardian’s reporting of the Snowden-NSA-mass surveillance stories.
The existence of The Guardian’s book sheds further light on why at least one major film executive has met with Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger to discuss film rights in recent months.
Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has covered the story from its inception, is simultaneously writing a book about Snowden and the NSA’s mass surveillance operation for Metropolitan Books.
Greenwald last week confirmed to Screen that “there have been negotiations” [with an unnamed company/companies] for rights but that a deal has yet to be concluded. New York-based Writers House represents screen rights for that book.
Screen understands that The Guardian’s book could be ready for publication in advance of Greenwald’s, which is due out in March 2014.
Financiers will be hoping to reach an agreement for rights to both books, as DreamWorks did with its WikiLeaks film The Fifth Estate, adapted from Harding and David Leigh’s WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy and Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website.
Screen reported last week that Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, which has a first-look deal with Warner Bros, is among the companies interested in acquiring rights to a film about Snowden.
However, upfront studio backing could win out because of the complicated, controversial and sprawling nature of the material, which could require painstaking legal attention as well as a multi-territory shoot.
One well-placed source confirmed that Sony is among the most interested parties. Having succeeded in recent years in delivering Facebook drama The Social Network and acclaimed Osama Bin Laden thriller Zero Dark Thirty, both of which were based on contentious and sensitive material, the studio could be a good fit.
Film rights are expected to close within the month. If they do, the property will be among the hottest pre-script properties at November’s American Film Market.
The Guardian first reported on the NSA scandal in June when Greenwald revealed that the NSA had been collecting the telephone records of millions of Verizon customers under a top secret court order granting the government unlimited authority to obtain communications data.
Snowden, a US computer specialist and former CIA and NSA employee, disclosed the NSA-Verizon story and other classified details to The Guardian and was subsequently charged with espionage by the US government, prompting him to flee to Hong Kong and then Russia where he has been granted temporary asylum by the Russian government.
In July, after a threat of legal action by the UK government, The Guardian destroyed computer hard drives containing copies of some of the secret files leaked by Snowden.