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Israel spy Eli Cohen will get the feature-film treatment

January 14, 2010 |  4:10 pm

Spy These days, getting a spy movie made -- at least one that isn't based on an established franchise like Bond or Bourne -- is hard enough. Getting a good one made is even harder (though 2006's "The Good Shepherd" did an impressive job at showing the challenges and vagaries of the Cold War).

Which is why you have to admire L+E Pictures, the banner of "Hamlet 2" producer Eric Eisner, for taking on a subject as dramatic and charged as Israeli spy Eli Cohen.

Eisner is developing the story of the well-known Mossad Agent, trying to bring a version to the big screen for the first time. (There was a decent TV movie in the late 1980s with Eli Wallach called "The Impossible Spy," and Sony had previously attempted to get a film made about Cohen but eventually put the project in turnaround.)

To anyone who follows the Middle East, Cohen's is an eye-popping espionage story even by the region's standards of, well, eye-popping espionage stories.

An Egyptian-born Jew, Cohen traveled to Syria to pose undercover for Israel during the early 1960s. He won the Syrian government's trust and steadily rose through its ranks, eventually landing the job of Syrian defense minister. Along the way, he passed along reams of intelligence to the Israeli government that experts believe was instrumental in the country winning 1967's Six-Day War. His improbable career ended in 1965, when he was discovered by the Syrians and hanged.

A young Israeli-American filmmaker named Lior Geller, who had an acclaimed Tarantino-esque short about the Middle East called "Roads" a few years back, will write the script, based on a book titled "Alone in Damascus."

Eisner noted that Cohen's story plays not just as a period piece but as a contemporary drama. Cohen's "counterintelligence was essential to Israel's survival and helped shape today's Middle East," the producer says.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: "The Impossible Spy." Credit: HBO Home Video


 
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