Next tour of duty taking Mendes to Persian Gulf

'Cast Away' scribe Broyles adapted war book

Sam Mendes’ next movie will be “Jarhead,” a Universal drama based on Anthony Swofford’s Persian Gulf-set Marine Corps. memoir.

“Cast Away” scribe William Broyles wrote the script, and Red Wagon partners Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher will produce. Shooting begins in the fall.

Drawing on his own experiences as a Marine grunt in Vietnam, Broyles wrote a script that studio and producers felt captured Swofford’s voice and vivid descriptions of war.

While Mendes has no background in soldiering, he liked the script enough to commit after reading a draft and doing some work on it with Broyles. His production shingle Scamp also will be involved.

“This is new territory to me, but I hadn’t spent two days in American suburbia when I directed ‘American Beauty,’ ” Mendes said. “I only knew the script had an unusual and original voice and it was a challenge I wanted to take on.

“This is equal parts black humor, honesty, rage, lyricism, profanity and the mixture of machismo jarhead culture. With the exception of ‘Three Kings,’ this is a war that has been overlooked but which has a burning relevance to what is happening right now in the Middle East,” he added.

The producers said “Jarhead” raced to production faster than any project they can remember. U bought the book in a seven-figure deal last fall (Daily Variety, Oct. 24).

Key was hooking Mendes, who is highly selective and takes his time between film assignments.

“Sam was our first choice,” Wick said. “This book creates such a completely distinct world, one that had a specificity of voice and contradictions everywhere you look.”

Fisher said they’ll start casting and scouting locations right away, with the deserts of the Southwest a possible destination, after they made a convincing backdrop for “Three Kings.”

To tackle “Jarhead,” Mendes will have to postpone film adaptations of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Sweeney Todd” and Khaled Hosseini’s novel “The Kite Runner.”

Mendes, who followed his Oscar-winning debut film “American Beauty” with 2002’s “Road to Perdition,” hasn’t made a film since. But he said he is still enthusiastic about the other projects and might accelerate his pace to make them in the near term.

“My process is slow and I enjoy it too much to rush,” said Mendes. “And I like to return to the theater between films. But after not doing any movies for a few years, perhaps I might do two in two years.”

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