Studios show interest in Tillman, Jones' stories

Hollywood is demonstrating its continued fascination with the Iraq war through three deals in the works on the subject.

Mike Medavoy’s Phoenix Pictures will develop a movie based on ABC News chief White House correspondent Martha Raddatz’s book “The Long Road Home.”

Tome is about insurgents’ 2004 ambush of an Army platoon on routine patrol in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City during which eight soldiers died and more than 70 were wounded.

Separately, Paul Pompian Prods. and Silver Hills Pictures have acquired the life story of Janet Leigh Jones. Shortly after arriving in the Green Zone to work for defense contractor KBR (then a Halliburton subsidiary), Jones claimed, she was drugged and gang-raped by six KBR employees, then locked in a shipping container without water or food after she reported the crime. Jones has a lawsuit in the works and described her ordeal on Capitol Hill.

Patricia K. Meyer will pen the script.

Studios are also showing keen interest in “The Hero,” a book about football star-turned-soldier Pat Tillman that “Into the Wild” author Jon Krakauer will deliver next month for publication by Doubleday in the fall.

NFL star Tillman left the gridiron to enlist in the Army. He was killed in an ambush in Afghanistan, and his family later discovered that the Army covered up evidence that he was killed by friendly fire.

As body counts continue to rise in Iraq and Afghanistan, audiences have roundly rejected films about wars that are still in the headlines. Films including “Lions for Lambs,” “In the Valley of Elah,” “Rendition” and “The Kingdom” misfired, and Paramount faces a challenge Friday when it opens the Kimberly Peirce-directed “Stop Loss.”

As a studio exec, Medavoy has supervised war pics such as 1978′s “Coming Home,” 1986′s “Platoon” and 1979′s “Apocalypse Now.”Medavoy said it is difficult to tell when enough time has passed to make a subject palatable to film audiences — he passed on “All the President’s Men” because he thought Watergate was too recently in the headlines — but he is prepared for a long development road on “The Long Road Home” because he believes in the subject matter.

“Clearly, the time is not now,” Medavoy said. “But you don’t shy away from a great story, either. Read this book and see if you don’t cry. You see the futility of the whole enterprise, but you are engaged on human and not geopolitical terms. My sense is it’s better to be patient, get it right and make sure that enough time has elapsed so that people will be receptive.”

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