Hollywood options ‘Guantánamo Diary’

Homes sit on the hillside near the Hollywood Sign, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Los Angeles.
Homes sit on the hillside near the Hollywood Sign, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Los Angeles. ASSOCIATED PRESS

You’ve seen the book, at least the parts the U.S. military censors permit. Now some Hollywood filmmakers have teamed up with a former “60 Minutes” producer to make a movie based on the bestselling memoirs of a war-on-terror detainee, “Guantánamo Diary.”

“United 93” and “Boogie Nights” film producer Lloyd Levin said Wednesday that he has bought the option through a New York agent for the book by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the Mauritanian prisoner at Guantánamo in what he hopes will be a quick turnaround in movie-making terms — from page to screen in about a year.

Writer Michael Bronner, who as a “60 Minutes” producer worked on a 2003 segment on the prison at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba, is writing the script, and from there the duo with fellow producer Beatriz Gonzalez Blanco will shop for a director.

Bronner says the film should capture what made the book so exceptional — one captive’s story, told from behind the razor wire by a man who is still there, and his journey there via his native Noakchott, Mauritania, from before 9/11 to Germany, Afghanistan and Canada and after the terror attacks to Jordan and Cuba. Slahi, held as Detainee 760, got to Guantánamo in August 2002 and has never been charged with a crime.

“That’s what I love about it. It’s not a lawyer’s movie. It’s not a guard’s movie,” Bronner said by telephone from Connecticut. “At the core, it’s this contest between the interrogators and him about who is going to define his life.”

The option functionally serves as a modest down payment on the rights. If the script gets written and a director takes on the project, more substantial money goes to the author — or, in this instance, his longtime lawyer Nancy Hollander whom the now 44-year-old captive entrusted with the manuscript and has been putting the book’s proceeds into a trust.

Slahi’s book has been translated into 24 languages, Hollander said Wednesday, the latest in Arabic and has been released in Lebanon. “We’re delighted and grateful that these producers want to make this movie about Mohamedou Slahi’s book and bring his words to life for more people to see,” she added.

Levin, for his part, said by telephone from Los Angeles that he does not envision a celebrity playing the prisoner.

“It's going to have to be someone who can be authentically believable as Mohamedou,” he said, adding that while he’s already rejected a suggestion that Ben Affleck could fit the bill, “We’d love him to direct the film.”

Follow @CarolRosenberg on Twitter

About the book

“Guantánamo Diary” has been translated into 24 languages, according to its editor, and is available now in the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Lebanon, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden and Turkey.

It’s due to come out later this year in Brazil, Croatia, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia and Spain.

Related stories from Miami Herald