EXCLUSIVE: A Prayer Before Dawn and Johnny Mad Dog director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire is set to direct a feature based on the remarkable life and career of World War II soldier Freddy Spencer Chapman.
Great Point Media and Under The Shadow producers Wigwam are developing the project, which is being penned by Ben Mac Brown. Great Point will also handle sales.
Decorated war hero Chapman was raised in a vicarage after losing both parents at an early age. He would go on to scale the Himalayas, learn to speak Inuit, and become a botanist, writer, photographer and anthropologist. In 1941, with Japanese invading forces advancing fast, the British soldier volunteered to operate a counter insurgency behind enemy lines in the Malayan jungle.
In a fiercely dangerous environment, assumed dead and at the mercy of local feuding guerrilla factions, he pushed himself to his physical and psychological limits in order to survive. He was captured both by Japanese troops and by Chinese bandits, escaping from both, and he spent seventeen days in a semi coma, suffering from tick-typhus, blackwater fever, pneumonia and chronic malaria.
Sauvaire, whose Thai boxing drama A Prayer Before Dawn played at Cannes and was picked up by A24 for U.S., said, “Jungle Soldier is absolutely fascinating to me – seeing how this Englishman, hooked by danger since his childhood, spent all those years surviving in the Malaysian jungle is more than an incredible true story balancing the horror of the war with the beauty of the nature, or a physical and emotional experience, it’s a life lesson: a remarkable account of superhuman bravery, resourcefulness in adversity, endurance, passion and courage.”
BAFTA winner Roskill commented, “Jean-Stéphane is an immensely gifted film maker, whose work puts the viewer through an immersive and visceral cinematic experience. It is an absolute privilege to be working alongside a director whose qualities perfectly compliment the source material, and we absolutely cannot wait to bring this story to life with him.”
According to Great Point, Jungle Soldier (which is also the name of a book by Bryan Moynahan about Chapman) will spearhead the company’s development slate of director-led projects in the $8M-$20M range. “Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire is a stunning filmmaker – you watch his films and hear his voice, see his vision, feel his energy,” said Nada Cirjanic, Head of Sales at Great Point.
“We’re thrilled to be working with such talented producers as Emily and Oliver,” she continued. “They have the taste and craft to bring this story from page to screen and are both at the forefront of an exceptional new group of young British producers who are making exciting and unique films.” GPM will be in Sundance and Berlin with Sundance title The Last Tree.
Sauvaire is represented by CAA and managed by Grandview, as is Brown.
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