LOS ANGELES – The Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl story is dominating the headlines as congressional criticism over the Obama administration’s exchange of the Army POW for five Taliban detainees grows.
Now entertainment insiders are telling FOX411 that the complicated tale of is gaining a ton of interest from Hollywood as well.
“The sheer volume of questions surrounding Bowe’s story is exactly why a publisher would love to tell this story," one publishing source explained. "The public wants to know.”
But Bergdahl may not be able to financially profit, at least not right away. As long as he enlisted in the Armed Forces he cannot officially be involved in any entertainment-related deal. Once his tour ends, however, he can cash out.
While Hollywood doesn’t necessarily need Bergdahl’s authorization to tell his story given the vast amount of public information available, it might still want him onboard if it is to mimic past true-story successes. Last year’s “Captain Phillips” about the merchant mariner held hostage by Somali pirates made over $107 million from a $55 million production budget. Former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s heroic inside story, “Lone Survivor,” grossed $125 million from a $40 million budget. Both had the cooperation of the individuals involved.
When it comes to inking book, movie and television deals, there are potentially millions to be made up front and through residuals for Bergdahl and his family. “Those who loathe America, as Bergdahl apparently does, are everywhere,” said Gerald Molen, who won an Oscar for co-producing Stephen Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List.” “I’m sure he will find a like-minded producer who will want to take it to the big screen.”
While it does not appear as though the family has retained an agent yet, media experts we talked to say its only a matter of time before the Hollywood honchos are knocking on the Bergdahls' door. War-zone writer and filmmaker Robert Young Pelton also points out that the mounting controversy over Bergdahl's release may end up causing him to sign with the highest bidder.
“This is America, and it is going to be hard for Bergdahl to get a job without a lot of publicity since his release is now a political football, as well as a military and legal problem,” he said.
If there is a payday, Bergdahl is also open to civil claims against him from families of those servicemen who may have been killed while looking for him. (He is also expected to get his five years of back pay, including his promotions in abstentia.)
“You can bet that families of those who lost their lives trying to rescue him will be in court and rightfully should seek damages for compensation for his acts if that is indeed what happened,” observed Molen.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that the Army may consider pursuing an investigation of desertion or other potential violations against Bergdahl, for which legal experts said he could face more than five years behind bars. Generally, in any federal settlement of a criminal case, a prosecutor writes into the settlement that any profits derived from wrong doing must be paid to the U.S. This doesn’t prevent Bergdahl from licensing or authorizing a book or film/television deal, he just wouldn't be allowed to keep the money from it.
“I think publishers and Hollywood will wait to see the dust settle so that they don’t waste money developing the wrong story,” noted L.A.-based entertainment attorney Julian Chan.
One soldier we talked to just wants the truth.
“On one hand I am angry that (if true) he walked off his post and put his fellow soldier’s lives at risk; that is totally unacceptable,” said Shawn Garrett Sgt. United States Marine Corps (ret). “On the other hand, I would want to hear the other side of the story so I could make a fair judgment of the situation.”
Bergdahl was freed Saturday after almost five years in Taliban custody as the last remaining American POW. However, his “hero” status has come under intense scrutiny given that Bergdahl allegedly sent a series of anti-American sentiments to his parents before possibly abandoning his post in 2009. Following his alleged escape, Bergdahl’s unit was devoted to trying to locate him. In the process, at least six U.S soldiers are reported to have been killed.
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