Universal has set Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe to star in “Breach,” a spy thriller based on the story of notorious FBI traitor Robert Hanssen, who sold secrets to the Soviet Union during the Cold War and later to Russia.
Cooper will play the disgraced agent, while Phillippe will play a young G-man assigned to hunt down the mole at the bureau.
Billy Ray (“Shattered Glass”) will helm from a script he’s rewritten, originally penned by Adam Mazer and Bill Rotko.
“Breach,” which had previously been known by its working titles “Hanssen” and “The 11th Hour,” is being produced by Scott Kroopf at Intermedia and Bobby Newmyer and Scott Strauss at Outlaw Films.
Lensing is set to get under way later this year.
Over the course of 15 years starting in 1985, Hanssen, who worked in the Soviet Analytical Unit, sold thousands of pages of classified documents to the Soviets, including identities of KGB agents who were spying for the U.S. and the government’s contingency plans in the event of nuclear war.
The secrets he sold — for, all told, $600,000 — together represent what’s been called the biggest national security breach in U.S. history.
A month before he was arrested in February 2001, Hanssen was transferred to a newly created office at the bureau’s Washington HQ responsible for protecting classified info. A young agent, Eric O’Neill, was placed in the office to keep tabs on his boss.
“Breach” will center on the dynamic that develops between Hanssen and O’Neill in the last few weeks before the FBI busted Hanssen delivering a cache of secret documents to a “dead drop” in a Virginia park outside D.C.
In 2002 he was sentenced to prison for life with no chance for parole.
Pic will be a return to the spy genre for Cooper, who played a spook in U’s “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy” and appears in Warners’ Middle East intrigue pic “Syriana.”
He also appears in Universal’s upcoming Gulf War pic “Jarhead” and Sony’s biopic “Capote.”
Cooper won an Oscar for his portrayal of orchid enthusiast John LaRoche in “Adaptation.”
Phillippe appears in Clint Eastwood’s next pic, “Flags of Our Fathers,” as well as the indie “Five Fingers.”
His credits include “Crash,” “Igby Goes Down” and “Gosford Park.”
Project marks the second feature helming assignment for Ray, who debuted with the disgraced journo story “Shattered Glass,” which he also wrote. He also penned Disney’s upcoming thriller “Flightplan.”
U production prexy Donna Langley will oversee with veep Damien Saccani and exec Kristin Lowe. For Intermedia, Alison Haskovec will shepherd.