“The Bourne Identity” helmer Doug Liman is attached to direct the adaptation of a chapter from acclaimed nonfiction book “Rise And Kill First.”
It details how Israel’s Mossad reached out in desperation to former Nazi Waffen SS lieutenant colonel Otto Skorzeny, a favourite of Hitler’s -branded by British intelligence services as “the most dangerous man in Europe,” to thwart an existential threat to Israel’s existence.
The stranger-than-fiction true story is set up at New York’s Story Syndicate (“I’ll Be Gone In the Dark,” “Britney vs Spears,” “Becoming Cousteau”), headed by Academy Award- and Emmy Award-winning Dan Cogan and Liz Garbus, and at Israel’s Abot Hameiri, producer of “Shtisel,” “The Attaché” and “Power Couple.” A Fremantle company, its co-founders are Guy Hameiri and Eitan Abot.
A Cannes Festival alum with 2010’s Palme d’Or contender “Fair Game,” Liman will also oversee development of the limited series. David Bartis also produces through Hypnotic.
The story unspools against the background of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser secretly hiring a team of former Nazi scientists to build a missile program that could destroy Israel.
A young Mossad initiates a campaign of espionage, kidnappings, extortions and assassinations that slows down but does not eliminate the threat. Desperate, it turns to the unthinkable – seducing Hitler’s got-to-man for covert missions, dashing SS commando leader Otto Skorzeny, into cooperating with them.
Hitler once entrusted Skorzeny to rescue Benito Mussolini from captivity. He did. Now Mossad asks Skorzeny to eviscerate Nasser’s program from the inside.
“This is the ultimate spy story, replete with the original James Bond, a nascent Mossad and Israel facing its extinction,” said Liman, whose credits also include the acclaimed “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”
Cogan and Garbus call Mossad’s partnership with Skorzeny “one the strangest, most surprising and dramatic true stories we have encountered in some time.” “It is an extraordinary spy-thriller and character drama, and we’re so excited to partner with Doug and Guy to bring it to life,” they added.
Hameiri observed: “This is a remarkable account from one of the most controversial and thrilling stories in Israel’s history. It’s incredibly exciting to be working with Doug and Dan who share an irresistible vision for this project and are the perfect creative team to bring this dramatic story to life.”
An Economist Book of the Year and winner of the 2018 National Jewish Book Award, “Rise and Kill First” is written by New York Times journalist Ronen Bergman who in 2017 received the Sokolov Award, the highest Israeli honour in journalism.
“This story recounts one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of Israeli intelligence operations. Israel, a little more than just one decade old, was facing an existential danger,” said Bergman.
He added: “Mossad and other branches of the Israeli defence establishment were late in discovering the program, and realized that there was only one man who could save the situation, a favorite of Hitler’s. But how do you go about recruiting a wealthy, well-connected Nazi?”
Abot Hameiri also produced original format “Hear Me, Love Me, See Me.”
Other scripted projects in development include “Bibi,” a high-end TV series on the life of the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu written by award-winning screenwriter Kirk Ellis.