Warner Bros. Pictures has picked up the film rights to journo M. William Phelps’ upcoming bio on American Revolutionary hero and spy Nathan Hale, whose final words before being hung by the Brits — “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” — are famous to this day.
Barry Josephson’s Josephson Entertainment will produce the bigscreen adaptation of Phelps’ tome “For the Sake of Liberty: America’s First Spy,” which Thomas Dunne Books publishes this fall.
A statue of the charismatic and debonair Hale sits on the grounds of CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.
In September 1776, Hale volunteered for an espionage assignment authorized by the country’s first intelligence org, formed only a month earlier under George Washington’s authority. Disguising himself as a Dutch merchant, Hale sneaked onto the island of Manhattan, which had been captured by the British, to assess troop movement. His true identity was revealed, however, and he was sentenced to be executed.
His oft-quoted declaration is believed to be a paraphrase of a line in the Joseph Addison play “Cato,” which was popular at the time.
“We want to do it as an exciting spy story,” Josephson Entertainment VP Danica Radovanov said. “Phelps has uncovered a lot of new details.”
Josephson is producer, while Radovanov exec produces. Josephson Entertainment’s Alexander Young brought in the project. Deal marks the first book buy for Warner production exec Matt Reilly.
PMA Literary & Film Management repped the film rights.
Josephson produced the upcoming Disney release “Enchanted,” while he’s in pre-production for Fox on “They Came From Upstairs.” He’s also developing “Air Guitar” and “Hammer Down” for DreamWorks and “The Fall of Saigon” for Fox.
Josephson is also producing the TV series “Bones” and a “Nurses” pilot for Fox.
(Dave McNary contributed to this report.)