August 21, 2007 / 8:05 AM / 10 years ago

Hollywood takes on Taliban tome "Lone Survivor"

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Universal Pictures has won the battle for the film rights to the nonfiction best-seller “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.”

<p>Peter Berg poses for photographers during the premiere of ''Smokin' Aces'' in Hollywood January 18, 2007. Universal Pictures has won the battle for the film rights to the nonfiction best-seller "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10." Sources said Universal paid a $2 million advance to acquire the rights to the tome as well as the underlying rights which Berg will write and direct. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas</p>

Peter Berg, who directed the studio’s upcoming Middle East thriller “The Kingdom,” will write and direct the adaptation, which did not come cheap. Sources said Universal paid a $2 million advance to acquire the rights to the tome as well as the underlying rights.

Written by Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, “Survivor” tells the true story of how Luttrell led a small team in northern Afghanistan to capture or kill an al-Qaida leader housed in a Taliban stronghold. On foot, they encountered two adult men and a teenage boy, and a debate broke out about whether the SEALs should execute the trio to keep them from alerting the Taliban or let them go.

Luttrell decided to spare their lives and free them. An hour later, the SEALs were attacked by the Taliban.

Luttrell, blown off a cliff, was the only one to survive the attack and spent four days hiding out in the mountains. He eventually was taken in by an Afghan tribe, who cared for him and risked everything to protect him when the Taliban arrived on their doorsteps.

Although the book triggered a bidding frenzy, the buildup for the project was slow. Luttrell worked on the book in 2006 while recovering from his injuries, and then did a six-month stint in Iraq. It was not published by Little Brown until June, after the author had left the military.

When it first made the Hollywood rounds, the studios passed, the common wisdom being that the subject was too tough to take on and that there already were a growing number of Middle East-set war movies.

By late July, Luttrell’s book had become a surprise best-seller, and producers and executives were clamoring to meet the 6-foot-5-inch Texan.

For Luttrell, the most important item on his list was that any adaptation had to respect his fallen comrades, so he wanted to achieve a comfort level with his suitors. Berg and Luttrell took to each other since the director is a fellow Texan with a love for the SEALs, who appear in “Kingdom.”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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