Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller. What do we know?

So, the great Steven Spielberg recently announced two new projects. Firstly, a Cold War thriller that is due to come out in October, 2015 (according to Variety), then a version of Roald Dahl’s classic the BFG to come out in 2016. But what else do we know about the first project apart from this broadest of descriptions?

Gary Powers and Bowe Bergdahl

First and foremost the Coen Brothers are set to write the script, or more accurately revise the script of young British playwright Matt Charman. Born in Crawley, Surrey in 1979, Charman has previously had the prestigious gig of being the writer in residence at London’s National Theatre as well as having written TV scripts, these have included a number of historical dramas such as his play The Machine and Our Zoo up-coming on the BBC .

Tom Hanks is to star in the film. He will play James B Donovan, an American lawyer who was employed by the CIA to secretly negotiate the release of captured US pilot Francis Gary Powers from the Russians. Powers had been flying a high altitude U2 spy plane over Russia and was shot down by the Soviets in 1960 and then sentenced to three years in prison followed by seven years of hard labour. He was eventually released two years later in a swap for a prominent Soviet spy imprisoned in the USA.

With the political fuss about the release of US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, in an an exchange for Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, the film is unexpectedly topical. Donovan had previously worked at the Nuremberg trials, and in 1957 Donovan had been appointed defense lawyer for Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. He ended up saving Abel from execution by arguing that the death penalty might lead to Russia refusing any future prisoner exchanges. He turned out to be correct.

After Gary Powers was shot down in the Soviet Union, Powers’ father wrote to Abel in prison to tell him that he was going to talk to the US government about the possibility of an exchange. Meanwhile, Abel’s wife wrote to Donovan with much the same idea. This led to Donovan travelling to East Berlin to negotiate with the Russians, and in February 1962 the two men were released on Glienicke Bridge in Berlin. He would go on to negotiate the release of 1,113 prisoners captured by Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion later the same year.

The film is to be financed by DreamWorks and Fox, with Disney handling distribution in the USA and Fox its international release. With Hanks, Spielberg and the Coens involved, it looks like an intriguing project and that’s even before we get to the fraught political landscape of prisoner exchanges.

When we hear anything new, we’ll let you know.

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