George Clooney Picks Up Rights to Jonathan Mahler's The Challenge
by Alex Billington
August 12, 2008
Actor George Clooney recently bought the rights to Jonathan Mahler's legal thriller "The Challenge." The book is a non-fiction story about the lengthy campaign waged by US Navy lawyer Charles Swift and Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal to ensure a fair trial for Salim Hamdan, the bodyguard and driver of Osama bin Laden. The film will be setup at Clooney's Smoke House production company and could potentially be something he will write, direct, and/or star in. Clooney might eventually take on the role of Charles Swift, but has not yet made any casting decisions. Apparently he's been interested in this political story for quite some time and met with Mahler before it was even published to start negotiating the deal.
Too add some more details to the back story behind Salim Hamdan, he was sentenced to 66 months in prison by a panel of military officers just a month ago. He was found guilty of material support for terrorism but cleared of the more serious charges of conspiracy to commit murder, which some consider a partial success for Swift and Katyal. The book outlines the story of the two lawyers and "their attempt to scale the walls of the American government and overturn the system of military commissions set up to try the detainees at Guantanamo Bay." It ends with the 2006 US Supreme Court ruling that the military tribunals ordered for Hamdan and other Guantanamo Bay detainees violated the Geneva Convention and the Uniform Code for Military Justice; what some have called "the most important decision on presidential power and the rule of law, ever." You can pick up a copy of the book on Amazon.com.
Unfortunately I'm not very familiar with this story or the case, however, reading up on the background has certainly drawn me in. In terms of the cinematic adaptation, I think it could present an interesting look at the whole situation, but I don't think it's going to have an effect this late in the game. However, it may not be Clooney's intention to use the film for political impact but rather to simply tell the true story. Unfortunately this world is over-saturated with Iraq War dramas and politically infused films that most ignore. Even Rendition, which to me stood out, ended up being ignored by the moviegoing public. Hopefully this story in the hands of Clooney will be turned into a film that people will actually care about.