Playtone goes to ‘War’ with U

Hanks to play former Texas congressman Wilson

Tom Hanks will continue chronicling American historical conquests with a new project. Hanks and Playtone partner Gary Goetzman have teamed with Universal to option the George Crile book “Charlie Wilson’s War.” Hanks wants to play Wilson.

Book is about how former Texas congressman Wilson persuaded the CIA to train and arm resistance fighters in Afghanistan, engineering a victory that hastened the fall of the Soviet Union.

Universal closed a deal Friday with CAA for “Charlie Wilson’s War,” and the studio, Hanks and Goetzman are eyeing “Band of Brothers” writer John Orloff — who’s currently adapting Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” for Universal — to adapt. Several bidders materialized but author Crile said they chose Playtone because of its passion for American history and because Hanks is ideal to play Wilson.

“What we loved most about Tom doing it is that he has developed a unique trademark for dealing with stories of war and patriotism with enormous dignity,” said Crile, a longtime “60 Minute” producer and husband of ABC Entertainment prexy Susan Lyne.

His book details how Wilson teamed with a rogue CIA agent named Gust Avrakotos to keep the Red Army from overrunning Afghanistan. Wilson seemed an unlikely catalyst to spur a victory that would end the Cold War.

An alcoholic womanizer who was known as Good Time Charlie, Wilson had a staff of former beauty pageant contestants known as “Charlie’s Angels” and nearly saw his career end because of a hot tub tryst with cocaine-sniffing showgirls in Vegas.

In Afghanistan Wilson found an outlet to use his gift for maneuvering around red tape. He and Avrakotos supplied money and put together a team of experts to mold an army that fought the Red Army to a stalemate.

“Having spent most of my journalistic career doing stories about CIA covert operations that were screwups, this was an intervention and use of American power that had enormous impact on the timing of the Soviet collapse,” Crile said.

U co-prexy Mary Parent will steer an adaptation of a book that was tricky despite a film-friendly narrative. That’s because the campaign that helped end the Cold War empowered terrorists like Osama bin Laden, and provided the arms later used by the Taliban against U.S. soldiers. Crile recognized the sensitivity. “I feel that everything done after the last Soviet left Afghanistan was disastrous,” he said. …We continued to fund tribes in a civil war and then we left. In this ugly atmosphere, characters like bin Laden who came along later and weren’t really responsible for the victory used that vacuum to acquire running room.

“The core of this is the two people who made possible a great American victory,” he said. “Both were miscreants, total outsiders. But they found each other. Gus provided Charlie with X-ray vision of what was happening in the CIA and Charlie used his post on the House Appropriations Committee that funded the CIA to support a worthy war. In Hollywood terms, that is a great buddy story.”

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