Legendary’s upcoming adaptation of the John N. Maclean book, The Esperanza Fire: Arson, Murder and the Agony of Engine 57, has found its director, in the form of Jim Mickle. Having successful helmed literary adaptation Cold In July, Mickle has been tapped to make Esperanza – the script for which has been adapted by relative newcomer Sean O’Keefe.
The source material provides an account of the very real arson fire that raged in Southern California in 2006, killing a Forest Service engine crew of five. The fire burned for four days in October of that year, before it was fully contained. In that time, it is estimated to have burned more than 61 square miles of land, destroying 34 homes, 20 outbuildings, and killing the five firefighters. The arsonist – whose conviction for murder was the first ever in a case of a wildfire arson attack – was found to be Raymond Lee Oyler. When convicted, Oyler was sentenced to death.
With Alex Hedlund of Legendary overseeing production, an adapted script in hand, and Mickle now in place to direct, the project is expected to move forward with casting presumably on the horizon. The film presents an opportunity to create a real ensemble piece, with the roles of the five firefighters up for grabs. The men – Captain Mark Loutzenhiser, Fire Engine Operator Jess McLean, Assistant Fire Engine Operator Jason McKay, Firefighter Pablo Cerda and Firefighter Daniel Hoover-Najera – ranged in age from 20 to 43 years at the time of the fire.
Esperanza comes in the wake of the critically acclaimed Lone Survivor, which told the harrowing tale of a team of Navy SEALs fighting for their lives against the Taliban in a remote location, and ahead of Everest – about a climbing expedition devastated by a severe snowstorm. All three are based on detailed literary accounts of the real events, and feature a small group of characters caught in extreme, life-threatening circumstances. It seems, perhaps, that the latest Hollywood trend has revealed itself.