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Bigelow and Boal Chase Ripped-from-Headlines Bergdahl Movie--As Do Fox Searchlight and Todd Field

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 16, 2014 at 5:28PM

During the 2012/2013 marketing swing on "Zero Dark Thirty," for whatever reason, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal tried to separate themselves as distinct entities. She was the director who collaborated with him as her writing and producing partner. And they didn't want to be seen as a romantic couple, either.
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Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow
Bowe Bergdahl
Bowe Bergdahl

During the 2012/2013 marketing swing on "Zero Dark Thirty," for whatever reason, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal tried to separate themselves as distinct entities. She was the director who collaborated with him as her writing and producing partner. And they didn't want to be seen as a romantic couple, either. 

Recently, when "Zero Dark Thirty" backer, Annapurna chief Megan Ellison, announced that she was backing  Page One, a new production company to be run by Boal, Bigelow's name was conspicuously missing. But when the projects were revealed, she and Boal were working on something together after all. Well, now they're actively pursuing something they'd been tracking for some time, another ripped-from-the-headlines movie, this time about rescued POW Bowe Bergdahl. And they are in a race to beat out others who are also in hot pursuit of the unfolding story: Fox Searchlight and Todd Field ("Little Children"). 

These filmmakers will be chasing the story of exactly what happened to the Army sergeant who left his post in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban. Fox Searchlight, reports Deadline, has acquired late Rolling Stones reporter Michael Hastings' Rolling Stone investigation of Bergdahl, "America’s Last Prisoner Of War," for "In the Bedroom" director Todd Field. After Hastings profiled Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, he had to resign. 

Presumably Boal is reporting on Bergdahl--how was he captured by the Taliban and held prisoner for five years? This is what happened with "Zero Dark Thirty," when their long investigation into the hunt for Osama bin Laden took a sudden turn when he was assassinated. The movie was so fresh in fact that it kicked up a political firestorm when three Senators came after the filmmakers for celebrating the efficacy of torture in the ultimate demise of bin laden. The critics' darling did better at the box office than with Liberal Oscar voters; Bigelow was snubbed in the Best Director category.

This story is packed with juicy details. Home-schooled in Idaho, before he joined the Army Bergdahl attempted to sign up with the French Foreign Legion and hung out at a Buddhist monastery. He spent five years as the only imprisoned U.S. soldier until reports of his bad health led President Obama to approve a trade for five Taliban officers at Guantanamo Bay. This proved to be a tendentious decision. 

This article is related to: Todd Field, Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.