Paramount and producer Scott Rudin needed to read only two pages to make a preemptive seven-figure deal on “Guests of the Ayatollah,” a book about the Iran hostage crisis that will be written by “Black Hawk Down” author Mark Bowden.
Studio and producer will use it to make the first studio film about the crisis that occurred when Iranian students stormed the American embassy in 1979 and held its staff hostage for 444 days. Bowden, who spent five years researching, is writing the book, to be published by Atlantic Grove in 2005.
It’s not the first time that Rudin has bought screen rights to a book before it was written. After producing a movie based on Michael Chabon’s book “Wonder Boys,” Rudin bought the author’s next book based on a short description. It turned out to be the Pulitzer Prize winning “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.” Rudin made a similar preemptive deal for the next book by “Cold Mountain” author Charles Frazier.
The deal puts Rudin behind a high-profile nonfiction subject for the first time. The crisis hobbled the administration of President Jimmy Carter, whose attempts to free them led to a disastrous rescue attempt. The standoff didn’t end until a day after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in January 1981; the remaining 52 hostages were freed after the U.S. unfroze $8 billion in Iranian assets. The film will concentrate on the hostages and how they survived such prolonged captivity.
The deal was made by ICM’s Ron Bernstein, who has made several major nonfiction sales this fall. He brokered a seven-figure outright purchase of Mariane Pearl’s memoir “A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl” to Warner Bros. and Plan B partners Brad Grey, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. He then made a near-seven-figure deal with Universal and producers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher for Anthony Swofford’s Gulf War memoir “Jarhead,” which is being adapted by “Polar Express” scribe William Broyles.
Bernstein also just made a deal with WB and producer Jerry Weintraub for “The Dark Art of Interrogation,” an article Bowden wrote for Atlantic Monthly. The author is also in business with Par and DreamWorks on “Killing Pablo,” about the downfall of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. “Narc” helmer Joe Carnahan will direct.
Rudin execs Mark Roybal and John Delaney spearheaded the Bowden buy. Rudin, who’s coming off the sleeper hit “School of Rock,” just wrapped Nicole Kidman starrer “The Stepford Wives” and David O. Russell-directed “I Heart Huckabee’s.” He has in production the Jonathan Demme-directed remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep and M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller “The Woods,” and is gearing up for Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic.”