The prospect of a biopic focused on the inventor of a piece of anti-virus software might sound less than thrilling, but when you take into account the fact that the man in question is John McAfee, then the idea of this project gets very exciting, very quickly. John McAfee is the self-made billionaire who suddenly moved to Belize and essentially became the paranoid master of his own little world – eventually falling foul of law enforcement with accusations of drug trafficking and murder. It is a fascinating tale that will now head to the big screen – with the title King Of The Jungle, and with Johnny Depp in the lead role.
The screenplay will be adapted from the 2012 Wired article – written by Joshua Davis – titled John McAfee Fled To Belize, But He Couldn’t Escape Himself. Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Big Eyes) will be writing the film, while John Requa and Glenn Ficara will direct. It’s a remarkable story of a man whose childhood was deeply troubled, and who grew to become an adult with serious addiction problems. In 1987, however, four years into his sobriety, John McAfee responded to news of the first known computer virus specifically designed to attack PCs by creating anti-virus software. He worked hard to stir the pot of public paranoia, and reaped the benefits in sales of goods and services. Some years later, following the development of a globally recognizable brand and its subsequent sale, John McAfee found himself wealthy beyond his wildest dreams.
By 2008, however, McAfee saw his funds diminished by the global economic collapse – though he was still the subject of a number of compensation claims by people injured in accidents around his properties or businesses. In this situation, he sold almost everything off and moved to Belize. Here, he became embroiled in local issues. McAfee suggests that he became aware of a relatively lawless, highly corrupt community, and tried to find solutions. His solutions generally involved hiring and equipping what amounted to a small private army, however. His activities – with arms, teenage girls, and – some allege – drug trafficking, drew the attention of the Gang Suppression Unit in Belize, and McAfee’s compound was repeatedly raided. While authorities never found any evidence of drug-trafficking, allegations of violence and murder began to swirl around the former software mogul.
King Of The Jungle – with these particular writing and directing teams – sounds like a fantastic film, but the news that Johnny Depp is attached to play McAfee could give audiences pause. Outside of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, Depp has been experiencing a spectacular career slump for some years now, and these filmmakers will undoubtedly be hoping that a reunion with his Ed Wood screenwriters could be just what the actor needs to give his work a shot in the arm, as it were. The choice of project is somewhat surprising, though. Given that Depp has been publicly accused of domestic violence in recent times, it’s perhaps a bold decision to take on the portrayal of a real person who himself has been accused of doing unspeakable things to others – including women. Depp took this same step in 2015 with Black Mass, and was met with a decidedly mixed response. That being the case, it will arguably be the wider cast that builds the lasting interest in this movie – and which names make it onto that list remains to be seen.