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Le Carre sons spy opportunity

Ink Factory develops projects

Working Title’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is the eighth John le Carre novel to reach the bigscreen, starting back in 1965 with “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.”

Now the author’s two sons, Stephen and Simon Cornwell, are bidding to increase that number through their own production company the Ink Factory, which they launched last year.

“We didn’t set off with the intention of getting involved in my father’s stuff, but he found out about it when he was writing his last book, and he suggested we take it on,” says Simon, a London-based digital entrepreneur.

Stephen is an L.A.-based screenwriter whose credits include “Unknown.”

Their slate now includes their father’s three most recent thrillers — “Our Kind of Traitor,” “A Most Wanted Man” and “The Mission Song” — in partnership with Gail Egan of Potboiler Films, who produced the 2005 version of le Carre’s “The Constant Gardener.”

“A Most Wanted Man,” scripted by Andrew Bovell and to be directed by Anton Corbijn, is on course to shoot next spring. This $15 million spy story, developed with Film4, is set in Hamburg, whose film fund has already granted it $1.3 million.

“Our Kind of Traitor” is being scripted by Hossein Amini (“Drive”), and “The Mission Song” by James Bond film writers Neal Purvis and Rob Wade.

Although Le Carre has stayed on the bestseller lists throughout his 50-year writing career, the acclaim for the Tomas Alfredson-helmed “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” has put the 79-year-old spymaster right back in the spotlight. The original 1974 novel jumped back onto the U.K. charts last week, coinciding with the film’s $4.4 million opening weekend via Studiocanal.

” ‘Tinker Tailor’ has clearly re-established John le Carre in people’s minds,” says Simon. “It’s also a really good, interesting and brave film, so from my point of view it sets the bar very high, but also shows just how good a movie you can make if you really commit.”

Le Carre has an executive producer credit on Working Title’s film (“thoroughly earned,” his son notes), and is just as involved with the projects being developed by Ink Factory. “Financially we’re all in it together,” says Simon. “He likes to be available as a resource to the scriptwriters, but he also hands people the flexibility to do it their way. He says don’t make a film of the book, make a film of the film.”

But Ink Factory isn’t just about le Carre. The company is developing an L.A. thriller, “Message to the King,” by Stephen and his writing partner Oliver Butcher, which FilmNation is financing and James McTeigue is attached to direct.

Cornwell and Butcher are also writing an untitled action thriller for Vin Diesel, to be co-produced by Ink Factory and Diesel’s shingle One Race.

A handful of of other projects are still under wraps. “The common thread through everything is that they are thrillers oriented towards the international market,” says Simon Cornwell.

As the slate ramps up, the Ink Factory is expanding its staff in London and Los Angeles. “We are quite ambitious,” Cornwell says. “We would like to grow to become one of the larger players in the European independent media sector, but of course we’re very conscious of the fact we have to get our first project, our second project and our third project off the ground and onto the screen.”

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