The mysteries of America’s foremost intelligence agency are fertile ground for storytellers, but the truth is always more powerful than fiction – particularly in the case of the 2014 biography The Good Spy: The Life And Death Of Robert Ames. Now, producing super-team Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes (Flight, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, Road To Perdition, the Men In Black franchise) have snapped up the rights to The Good Spy, and are planning to deliver a dramatic adaptation of it to the big screen.
Robert Ames was a CIA operative and the intelligence agency’s Near East Director. He allegedly made the first high-level infiltration of the PLO during his career, and was renowned for building productive and effective relationships with Arab intelligence figures. These bonds were seen to hold the key to lasting peace – but those hopes were dashed when he was killed in the suicide bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut on April 18th 1983. The attack killed 63 others, including the CIA Lebanon station chief, and a further six CIA operatives.
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The book is widely acknowledged to be a powerful piece of work – not least because of the author’s personal connection to the subject. Pulitzer Prize winning biographer Kai Bird is the son of a US Foreign Service Officer, and lived in the Beirut Embassy for a time as a child – and once as a neighbour of Ames. While the book gives a parallel analysis of both the man and the political situation, however, the movie will apparently focus on Ames and his rise through the shadowy ranks for the most part – keeping middle east-US tensions as a backdrop for a more personal story.
Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes have tapped F. Scott Frazier to adapt the source material. Frazier made his screenwriting debut with 2013’s The Numbers Station, and also wrote the not-yet-released Autobahn, which attracted a cast list that includes Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley.
The Good Spy will provide an opportunity for some diverse casting, since the source material chronicles the building of positive bonds between Ames and his Middle East counterparts. It will be the casting of the role of Ames himself that will be key, though. As seems to be routine these days, the script – when finished – will probably pass through the usual hands of Tom Hanks, George Clooney and the like before it reaches anybody more intriguing.