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How should Hollywood react to the killing of Osama bin Laden?

May 2, 2011 |  8:31 pm

The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of a U.S. strike force makes for some captivating storytelling, and throughout Hollywood on Monday, discussions reverberated  about how to turn the news into a captivating movie.

As we report in a story in Tuesday's Times, the movie business is in a bind. Executives and filmmakers sense an opportunity -- the Bin Laden killing is one of the few post-9/11 military tales with a satisfying conclusion for American audiences. But it's also tough to make a story suspenseful when everyone on the planet knows how it ends.

Some saw a big commercial play in the Bin Laden strike, so long as any potential film avoids, well, darkness or nuance (darkness and nuance being that things that may have doomed the box-office fortunes of a host of Iraq and Afghanistan war movies). “You need a big star and a lot of action, something the audience can cheer for,” said one longtime studio marketing executive. Call it the U-S-A version of the film, and one that a Sylvester Stallone could adapt, with only some liberties, for the upcoming "Expendables" sequel.

Another action movie in the works that might be ripe for a Bin Laden plot element: Tony Scott's film based on TV's “24.” Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer of course is a shrewd and lethal government counter-terrorism agent whose storylines often parallel current events. Fans already seemed to be sending Scott a message on Sunday night: Shortly after President Obama announced Bin Laden had been killed, “Jack Bauer” was a trending topic on Twitter.

But others in Hollywood, including Bryan Singer, who directed “Valkyrie” — the 2008 Tom Cruise movie about an elite group conspiring to kill Hitler — said they saw in the Bin Laden saga a chance for something more detail- and character-driven.

"I could see a kind of ‘All the President’s Men,’ where we track moments of intelligence and how agents followed the trail,” he said. “Just because we know how the story ends doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting or exciting.”

Perhaps the most interesting case is a planned movie from Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow, the writer-director team behind "The Hurt Locker." Based on a book about the search for Bin Laden in Tora Bora after 9/11 (a manhunt with a rather different feel and finish), their untitled film will get, according to one person familiar with it, "new context" and a new ending in the wake of Sunday's news.

If their film was at a studio, Sunday's news may have well got the project hung up in committee, as executives debated how and whether to tackle the subject. But because it's being financed independently (by Larry Ellison's daughter Megan Ellison), it could still shoot as early as this summer. (There's plenty on the line, and not just culturally; according to one studio executive who heard the pitch, it's budgeted between $20-$25 million.)

From Israeli-raid  tale “Raid on Entebbe” to Somalian drama “Black Hawk Down” to  “Valkyrie,” Hollywood has a long history of movies about targeted military strikes on villains. Already a number of pundits -- CBS' Lara Logan, to name one -- are willing to make the connection between the Bin Laden death and the film world, comparing the strike to "Black Hawk Down" and others. We'll soon see if American audiences are willing to make the connection too.


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--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Osama bin Laden. Credit: Rahimullah Yousafzai / Associated Press


Comments () | Archives (14)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Say what you will about Osama bin Laden, at least he got that bloody Royal Wedding off Page One.

How should Hollywood react to Bin Laden's death? Not at all, at least not for a few months. Too soon, guys. Too soon, and kind of a vulgar question. Hey, how about we let these events percolate through our national consciousness before trivializing them with debased discussion of turning it into some sort of blockbuster.

hollywood should react by milking the bin laden killing for all its worth of course its only logical :)

They should make a musical where it ends with the little mermaids number "under the sea"

Which white actor is going to play Osama?

I agree with both of you. And something I find hilarious is that people can be so money driven that only two hours after someones death, there are already plans of making money off of it. As if death should become a marketplace.

such admirable qualities we find in humans.

Just don't give Gilbert Gottfried a mic any time soon

They tried to make money off of 9/11 the second it happened. Stupid Bowling for Columbine movies which were so award winning it was clearly meant to exploit the tragedy monetarily and act with an elitist edge that was so cowardly in its design it wouldn't dare say a bad thing about those innocent terrorists and ofcourse the worst person in the world is the common American. Go to hell, Hollywood. It even seemed like a preview for another film, hoping an invasion of Iraq would happen. I hope you lose even more money this summer. Go to hell.

Let it be and move on and lets get some good stories that have nothing to do with OBL>

I will cry if they make an "Expendable" style movie based on this event.

I much rather have another "Black Hawk Down" style.

Who cares...?!

I propose a Sponge Bob movie. Sponge Bob finds bin Laden's corpse on the bottom of the sea.
SPONGE BOB: "Patrick, did you miss the toilet again?"
PATRICK: "I think this is the secret ingredient to Crabby Patties."
They proceed to ask Mr. Crabs who says, "Why not." They decide to make Denver Oysters and test them on Squidward who thinks they are the best thing he ever tasted. Plankton finds out and tries to steal the recipe but is almost caught in the act and has nowhere to hide so he quickly crawls up bin laden's rear. Sandy the Squirrel senses trouble and karate chops the corpse and Plankton shoots out of bin Laden's butt and nearly kills Gary the pet snail who is protected by his shell. Mr. Crabs laughs out the scene with his pirate laugh.

"How should Hollywood react to the killing of Osama bin Laden?" The same way they handle everything else. Really bad.

Since September 11, 2011, it has been understood that the U.S. would continue to pursue bin Laden wherever he might be. Furthermore, the operation itself was the culmination of years of careful and highly advanced intelligence work. “Bin Laden was a sworn enemy of the United States and a danger to all humanity; a man who called for the murder of any American anywhere on Earth,” said senior administration officials.http://bit.ly/kVl619


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