TIME movies

Not One but Two Bowe Bergdahl Movies Are Already Being Planned

Bergdahl Being Treated At U.S. Military Hospital In Germany
In this undated image provided by the U.S. Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl poses in front of an American flag. U.S. Army/Getty Images

One is to be produced by the duo that gave us Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker; the other is based on a biographical article by late journalist Michael Hastings

It’s been only three days since Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl returned to the U.S. after nearly five years in a Taliban prison, and already Hollywood is seeking to capitalize on the surrounding controversy. The Hollywood Reporter confirmed on Monday night that two competing Bergdahl biopics are in the works.

The first comes from Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow, two filmmakers fairly seasoned in the craft of politically topical movies. Together, they wrote, directed and produced Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker, which collectively won seven Academy Awards.

Todd Field — In the Bedroom and Little Children — also has plans to direct and produce a Bergdahl film for Fox Searchlight, having acquired the rights to late journalist Michael Hastings’ 2012 Rolling Stone profile on “America’s last prisoner of war.”

Though the Hollywood Reporter describes the two projects as “competing,” there may be little overlap between them. Boal and Bigelow’s film is said to treat the issue of Bergdahl’s release by Afghan forces — in a controversial trade for five Taliban prisoners in U.S. custody — whereas Hastings’ Rolling Stone piece, the presumed basis for Field’s script, caters more to the 28-year-old’s backstory.

At this point, though, both projects still sit very much on the drawing board. Neither Boal and Bigelow nor Field have obtained Bergdahl’s “life rights,” and any biographical film produced without them may run into some development hurdles.

TIME Michael Hastings

Lessons From My Husband Michael Hastings

Michael Hastings Elise Jordan
Courtesy Elise Jordan

His first novel, a satire of the media, will be published next week. Here’s what the late former war correspondent would make of the coverage of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl—the most important story of his career.

Audiences are constantly frustrated and baffled by what becomes “news,” what gets ignored and which stories go on and on — the hours spent salivating over another book by Hillary Clinton wholly devoid of news, for instance. Who decides all this stuff? My late husband Michael Hastings channeled his frustration with the media’s choices into a work of fiction, The Last Magazine, which comes out next week.

Michael is best known for his acclaimed Rolling Stone profile that unintentionally brought down General Stanley McChrystal. But the story closest to his heart was all but invisible until last week: the plight of prisoner of war Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Before Bergdahl has made it out of a hospital in Germany, he’s been called a deserter and traitor. The media’s self-centered bastardization of “news” inspired Michael, from his first days as an intern and cub reporter at Newsweek throughout his career.

Sergeant Bergdahl’s story did not gain traction until his release became politicized. Everyone in the media understands why. Most of the men and women in the industry hate it too. But they live with it, some quite complacently. But what happens when they don’t?

After years of reporting on Iraq and Afghanistan — watching what he called “jaw-dropping news” rarely break into the news cycle — Michael decided to go after the human stories behind the wars: what people really say, how people really act, the things they really believe. “If nobody died, war would be NFL football. But people die, and that’s the cost. You lose people and their futures,” Michael said. He cared about lost futures and discounted the accounting: “We fixate on the numbers, and we get numb.”

Baghdad Adhamiyah Sweep
Michael Hastings in Baghdad. Lucian Read

While reporting Bergdahl’s story, Michael had his own problems sleeping, pacing our apartment through the night and chain-smoking cigarettes as he worked on the story. He agonized over the possibility that a casual detail might incite Bergdahl’s captors to behead the young soldier. Michael thought it was the most important story of his career, and he was sure the story would break through the news cycle. He readied for attacks, like the vitriol from colleagues that he confronted following his McChrystal profile. No one seemed to care.

Bergdahl wasn’t powerful. So Bergdahl languished — wasting away, physically shrinking, escaping only to be recaptured and locked in a metal box, tortured — in captivity, until the Obama Administration decided to accept the same exact terms proposed by the Afghan Taliban, two years later, as originally reported in Michael’s story.

I listened to Michael and his reporting partner Matt Farwell’s interviews with the Bergdahl family this weekend and was struck by all the material that is still vital to understanding such a complex tragedy — the material Michael couldn’t fit into a single profile. Like when Bergdahl’s father Bob laments the U.S. government’s decision to make freeing Raymond Davis from Pakistan a priority: ”So if you’re a CIA Blackwater mercenary, you get the red carpet extraction, but if you’re just a grunt who happens to be the victim of war …” His father’s voice trails off. “I think worst-case scenario, he’s a psychological casualty. Thank God [he] didn’t commit suicide.”

With McChrystal, Michael was fascinated by how someone can kill so many, however honorable the intentions, yet never seem to lose an hour of sleep. (Or in McChrystal’s case, even need sleep in the first place.) In young Bergdahl, Michael saw the complete opposite of the four-star. McChrystal exuded power; Bergdahl lacked it, so he lacked a voice. When a sensitive 22-year-old from Idaho went missing from a remote outpost in Afghanistan, Michael asked the question few others bothered with: Why?

We’ve seen the personal destruction of a decade-plus of war: drugs, suicides, broken marriages and posttraumatic stress. Through it all, Bergdahl lay awake on a cot, likely in a sleeping bag under a mosquito net, alone in the world, in what many describe as the edge of civilization. What drove a teetotaler, a voracious reader and ballet dancer, to such an extreme decision? What was he thinking?

Michael knew, of course, that without Bergdahl’s side of the story, he’d never have a definitive answer. And we still have that answer ahead of us — a reality that insensitive politicians and media commentators ignore as they pass judgment on a young man still in psychological hell after being tortured and enduring the unimaginable.

But Michael got more to the truth of Bergdahl’s actions and his motivations than any other journalist reporting the story today. We need to wait until Bergdahl’s ready to talk to find out why, instead of wildly overplaying certain unknowns and ignoring others. Michael would have been disgusted by the exploitation of personal tragedy for craven ends. What would serve us even better right now is a wider canvas, someone stepping back to analyze and satirize the whole process. Someone on the inside, but a rebellious voice, refusing to answer to anyone but his readers. To state the obvious: it’s one of the many reasons I miss Michael Hastings.

Jordan is a writer and political commentator. She is a former speechwriter for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and director for communications at the National Security Council.

TIME Military

Gen. Stanley McChrystal Pens Blog On How He Survived Being Fired

“The uniform I’d first donned as a 17-year old plebe at West Point, the uniform of my father, grandfather, and brothers, was no longer mine to wear,” he wrote.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has admitted having a crisis of identity after getting fired from the U.S. Army by Barack Obama in 2010, saying he bounced back by thinking creatively about the skills he learned in 38-plus years as a soldier.

“There is only one Army in which you serve,” McChrystal wrote in a blog posted on LinkedIn Tuesday. “When that identity is gone, it is gone forever. For me, it was gone in an instant, and on terms that I could never have imagined.”

McChrystal was the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan when, in June 2010, Rolling Stone ran an article depicting McChrystal and aides poking fun at top civilian leadership in the United States, including Vice President Joe Biden. In the article, by the late Michael Hastings, McChrystal says Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” when in the presence of military brass.

“I boarded a flight immediately, returning from Afghanistan to Washington, D.C. to address the issue with our Nation’s leadership. Less than 24 hours later I walked out of the Oval Office and in an instant, a profession that had been my life’s passion and focus came to an end,” McChrystal wrote Tuesday.

At the time of the incident, McChrystal apologized publicly for the incident, saying “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.” But in his LinkedIn post Tuesday, the general describes his portrayal in Hastings’ piece as being as “unfamiliar as it was unfair,” suggesting he now disputes the article.

McChrystal says he recovered from the shock of the incident by re-thinking the skills he had amassed in his decades as a soldier. “Like leaders in many walks of life, my business has been to serve with, and for, others,” he said. “By focusing on this simple truth, and allowing it to guide my decisions through a difficult time, this curveball ultimately opened as many doors as it closed.” Since leaving the Army McChrystal has started a company, hit the speaking circuit and taught at Yale.

TIME movies

Brad Pitt To Play General Stanley McChrystal

Brad Pitt at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood on March 2, 2014 after winning best picture for "12 Years a Slave".
Brad Pitt at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood on March 2, 2014 after winning best picture for "12 Years a Slave". Mario Anzuoni—Reuters

The Benjamin Button star has signed on to produce and star in the movie adaptation of the late Michael Hastings' explosive behind-the-scenes account of the former Army general's fall from grace, detailed in his book The Operators and a Rolling Stone article in 2010

A movie about the rise and fall of General Stanley McChrystal is in the works and Rolling Stone reports that Brad Pitt has been tapped to star and produce.

The film, called The Operators, is based on the late Michael Hastings’ book The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, which goes behind the scenes with Gen. McChrystal while he was still the commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The book itself is based on Hastings’ 2010 Rolling Stone article, “The Runaway General,” which revealed that McChrystal and his staff had openly and crassly disparaged the White House administration and its handling of the war in front of Hastings. The article earned Hastings the George Polk Award and led to McChrystal’s firing by President Barack Obama. Hastings died in a car crash last summer at the age of 33.

There’s no production date set for the movie adaptation, though David Michôd, who helmed 2010’s Animal Kingdom, has reportedly signed on to write the script and direct.

 

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