May 5, 2017

Tradecraft: Chris Pine and Michelle Williams to Star in Olen Steinhauer Adaptation ALL THE OLD KNIVES

The film rights to Olen Steinhauer's most recent novel, All the Old Knives, were sold a year before the book even came out. When it was published, it was reported that Neil Burger (Limitless, The Asset) would direct, but that never came to pass. Today Variety reports that the project is still alive and well, now in the hands of The Theory of Everything and Shadow Dancer director James Marsh. Chris Pine (Wonder Woman, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) will star. They're a bit younger than I pictured the characters in the book, but both terrific actors who I can't wait to see in those roles!

The brilliant concept, indicated in the text itself (Steinhaur often tips his hat to his influences in his novels), is Christopher Reid's The Song of Lunch meets Len Deighton's Berlin Game. It's the search for a mole (as in the latter) played out in flashbacks over the course of a dinner between two ex-lovers (as in the former). A man and a woman meet in Carmel by the Sea to relive old times and go over an intelligence debacle in Vienna they were both party to six years prior. The novel trades off first person narration between the two of them. Each is apparently suspicious of the other, and both are potentially unreliable narrators. It's a complex spy game formulated by a writer at the top of his craft and played out in a relatable and intensely emotional scenario. It should make a great movie if Steinhauer (who wrote the screenplay himself) has found a way to make the flashbacks and framing structure cinematic. He's gotten a lot of practice lately on visual storytelling, having created and penned several episodes of Berlin Station on EPIX. (Berlin Station was recently renewed for a second season.)

Now if only we could get some movement on the long overdue adaptation of Steinhauer's masterpiece, the Milo Weaver trilogy! Last we heard, Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) was attached to direct the first novel, The Tourist, with his Covert Affairs partners Matt Corman and Chris Ord penning the script. But that was way back in September, 2012. There haven't been any developments reported on the project since then, and Liman keeps adding movie after movie to his schedule that aren't The Tourist. Hopefully All the Old Knives is a huge hit and kick-starts that franchise.

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