In one of the few high-profile Sept. 11-themed pickups, Columbia has optioned Richard A. Clarke’s White House memoir “Against All Enemies” for ex-Sony Pictures chairman and Col-based producer John Calley to produce.
In the New York Times bestseller, Clarke, the terrorism czar to the past three U.S. presidents, heaps scorn on the latest Bush administration for allegedly having squandered opportunities to confront al Qaeda both before and after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
It’s unclear whether Clarke would be the central character of the pic, and equally murky how — if at all — the 9/11 terror attacks might be portrayed in such a film.
“We only just optioned it,” said Col chairwoman Amy Pascal, reached late Sunday. “We’re not sure what we’re going to do with it. It could be just a look at what went on on the inside.”
Col co-prexy of production Doug Belgrad explained that “no one’s had the kind of access that (Clarke’s) had,” speaking of Clarke’s command of the White House situation room on Sept. 11. He added: “We’re fascinated by the procedural aspects of the story, because that level of procedural detail has been the making of many great movies. But, obviously, we want to be sensitive to the fact that the events are still a raw wound for America and the world.”
Indeed, “Enemies” is only one of a handful of Sept. 11 projects to be set up in Hollywood, which has been fearful about appearing exploitative of the 9/11 attacks. Notably in 2002, MGM Pictures acquired the rights to Lawrence Wright’s New Yorker magazine profile of Clarke’s colleague and friend John P. O’Neill, a former FBI counter-terrorism expert who had taken a position as security director for the World Trade Center just two weeks before the attack that killed O’Neill and 3,000 others.
Calley’s interest in movies about both presidential politics and espionage is well-established. He worked on the 1976 Watergate drama “All the President’s Men” while an exec at Warner Brothers in the late ’70s, and more recently oversaw production on Sony’s 2001 espionage thriller “The Tailor of Panama,” based on John le Carre’s novel, while he was still chairman.
Calley declined to comment about his decision to produce Clarke’s “Enemies,” citing other pressing engagements.
Most recently, he produced the film version of Patrick Marber’s Broadway and West End legiter “Closer,” helmed by longtime friend Mike Nichols. Calley is also the producer of “The Da Vinci Code,” which director Ron Howard is producing from an Akiva Goldsman script, also set up at Sony.
Sony Pictures did not disclose terms of the deal, but one Sony insider insisted that the book deal was not a big-ticket purchase for the studio. Sale of “Enemies” — now No. 1 on the NYT bestsellers list — was brokered by ICM.