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Steven Zaillian Developing Anthrax Attacks Movie ‘Mirage Man’

20th Century Fox and Steven Zaillian are developing a movie about the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks and the search for the killer.

The studio has bought the feature rights to David Willman’s 2011 book “The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America’s Rush to War.” Zaillian and Cybill Lui are the producers.

The anthrax attacks began on Sept. 18, 2001, a week after the 9/11 attacks, with letters sent surreptitiously from a mailbox in New Jersey to media and political figures in New York, Florida, and Washington D.C. Exposure to anthrax killed five people and infecting 17 others.

Authorities first focused on bio-weapons expert Steven Hatfill, who was eventually exonerated. Speculation emerged that the attacks were linked to Al-Qaeda, serving as part of the pretext for the U.S.-led coalition launching the Iraq War in 2003. Bruce Edwards Ivins, a scientist who worked at the government’s biodefense labs, became a suspect in 2005 and committed suicide by overdosing on acetaminophen in 2008.

Willman’s book explores the faulty investigative work that led to the public smearing of Hatfill and details Ivins as a deeply troubled scientist who for more than 20 years had unlimited access to the U.S. Army’s stocks of deadly anthrax. Willman won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for his expose of seven unsafe prescription drugs that had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Zaillian produced “Red Sparrow” through his Film Rites company. He adapted Martin Scorsese’s upcoming crime drama “The Irishman,” starring Robert De Niro. Zaillian has been nominated for Oscars for his scripts for “Awakenings,” “Gangs of New York,” and “Moneyball,” and won the Academy Award for “Schindler’s List.” The news about “The Mirage Man” was first reported by Deadline.

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