20th Century Fox is developing an adaptation of David Willman‘s non-fiction book The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America’s Rush to War, Collider has learned.
Steve Zaillian will produce via his Film Rites banner along with Anova Pictures principal Cybill Lui, whose feature credits include After the Dark and the Nicolas Cage movie Pay the Ghost.
The Mirage Man chronicles the true story of the 2001 anthrax attacks, which began on Sept. 18 — exactly one week after 9/11 — and continued over a period of three weeks. Letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two U.S. Senators (Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont), ultimately killing five people and infecting 17 others. According to the FBI, the ensuing investigation became “one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement.”
The perpetrator turned out to be Bruce Edwards Ivins, a scientist who worked at the government’s biodefense labs at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. He first became a suspect in April 2005, and two years later, he was put on periodic surveillance. Ivins (pictured below) committed suicide in July 2008, and one week later he was declared the sole culprit after DNA evidence linked him to the anthrax attacks. The FBI formally closed its investigation in February 2010, though the National Academy of Sciences released a report the following year that cast doubt on the government’s conclusion, and some information related to Ivins’ mental problems remains under seal.
To say this harrowing true story could make for an excellent manhunt thriller would be an understatement, especially in Zaillian’s hands. He may not be writing the script this time around, but I was a big fan of the last film he produced, Red Sparrow, as well as his HBO series The Night Of. Zaillian has written some of the biggest and best movies of all time, such as Schindler’s List, Moneyball, American Gangster and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, as well as Gangs of New York and The Irishman for Martin Scorsese, so he knows a good story when he sees one.
Zaillian is represented by WME and Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown, and I’m looking forward to My Dinner With Hervé, the HBO movie he executive produced starring Jamie Dornan and Peter Dinklage.