WW2 film pitched to Hollywood

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Hollywood producers have been asked to make a film about a Londonderry barman who used to retain the watches of US sailors as collateral for their bar tabs during World War II, the Sentinel can reveal.

Top film executives from Sony and Columbia pictures were last year told that ‘The Timekeeper’ was “a fantastic concept” that could replicate the success of Nick Cassevetes’ ‘The Notebook,’ the 2004 box office smash starring James Garner, Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling.

Last August book-to-film scout Mark James of James Literary Consulting wrote to Amy Pascal, Doug Belgrad, Hannah Minghella and Andrea Giannetti touting the prospective film, which is based on a book proposal by author Kevin McDermot.

Michael De Luca the producer of ‘The Social Network,’ ‘Moneyball,’ ‘Captain Phillips,’ ‘Dracula Untold’ and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ amongst other Hollywood successes, was also emailed details by Mr James.

The email was amongst 173,132 Sony Pictures Entertainment emails published by Wikileaks last week,

According to Mr James: “It is based on a true story about a bartender in Derry, Northern Ireland during World War II who kept the watches of American servicemen when they were shipped out to sea; they could pick them up (and pay off their bar tabs) when they returned.

“Of course, at the end of the war, the bartender had a lot of watches left.

“He set out to return the watches to the families of the servicemen.

“The fictional part of the novel takes place in the present day, as the grandson of the bartender inherits five watches and decides to continue his grandfather’s mission.

“Story got ‘Consider Concept Only’ coverage and I agree. It is a really great idea that could work along the lines of ‘The Notebook’ - with the romance taking place in the modern portion of the story.”

A logline - or brief synopsis - of the proposed film suggests the love story could be entwined with a thriller plot set on the Londonderry-based US fleet during the war.

It reads: “American reporter suffering PTSD is contacted by an Irish attorney, who claims that reporter has inherited a drawer full of watches once owned by WWII sailors – and that one of the watches belonged to his grandfather, whom the reporter never knew existed (his own father was adopted) but who died accused of committing several horrific murders at sea.

“Reporter clears grandfather’s name and finds his own redemption in the process.”

Meanwhile, another email reveals that on April 22, 2014, another Hollywood high-flyer, Tom Rothman of TriStar Productions, was extremely impressed with French-Algerian director Yann Demange’s ‘’71,’ which is set in Belfast during the Troubles.

The former 20th Century Fox chairman compared the film to Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 masterpiece ‘The Battle of Algiers.’

In an email to Ms Pascal he wrote: “This guy’s film is sick. Its Battle of Algiers in Belfast 1971. Really impressive.”

And another email from Ellis Jones of the independent private equity and investment firm Wasserstein and Co. to Sony chief Michael Lynton on April 10 last year also references the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Mr Jones invited Mr Lynton to a lecture on ‘Understanding Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century’ by Professor Richard English, who has written several books including ‘Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA,’ ‘Irish Freedom: The History of Nationalism in Ireland,’ and ‘Modern War: A Very Short Introduction.’

Mr Ellis suggested Mr Lynton would be interested in the topic in his capacity as a board member of the RAND Corporation.

“I know via RAND this topic interests you,” wrote Mr Ellis. “This will be at my house/no idea if this guy is good...has big reputation.”