Zoe Saldana will star in Sabaya, a fact-based thriller that Reed Morano The Handmaid’s Tale will direct based on a William Monahan script about the unlikely circumstances that made possible a 2015 U.S. Special Forces raid that killed a top ISIS leader and started the downfall of the radical Islamic State.
Saldana will play a female CIA officer who befriended a recently escaped ISIS sex slave, or “sabaya.” The 15-year-old Yazidi girl can neither read nor write, but as she works with the teen to piece together her harrowing odyssey out of Syria, the CIA officer finds that the abused girl has pinpointed the nerve center of the Caliphate. The subsequent dramatic raid on the site of the young woman's captivity results in the capture of intelligence that would spell the end of the Islamic State.
The story comes from Spycraft Entertainment, a production company headed by Grant Verstandig and former CIA officers John Sipher and Jerry O'Shea, who work with retired members of the intelligence community to create and develop content based on their true stories. Michael Ovitz was a key man here. The former superagent was given a 20-page treatment from Verstandig. Ovitz took that to his former colleague Rick Yorn, who runs LBI Entertainment. Ovitz, Yorn, and LBI colleague Chris Donnelly engaged Saldana, Morano and Monahan, latter of whom won the Oscar for scripting The Departed.
“It is an honor to be a part of the telling of this story,” said Saldana. “This young woman's journey is one for the books, and I am beyond grateful we will get to immortalize it on the silver screen.”
Morano, who won Emmys and DGA Awards for The Handmaid’s Tale, has the Blake Lively action thriller The Rhythm Section in post-production. She called Sabaya “a larger than life epic but it's also an intimate, raw portrait of a young girl’s determination and the bond that forms between these two women. I’ve not seen such a mind-blowing adventure that is simultaneously so emotionally transcendent, from these perspectives before. I'm thrilled to be telling this powerful story with the incredible Bill and Zoe.”
Monahan called Sabaya “the best material for an emotionally powerful theatrical war film that I have seen in ages and I don't say that lightly. It's a story of doing the right thing against desperate odds, and if you think about it, no film that's any real good is about anything else whatsoever. Sabaya is what the big screen is for, and this dream team we've got is all out for [it].”
Deal was packaged by Ovitz and LBI. CAA and LBI rep Saldana, Morano and Monahan.
HanWay Films are introducing the project, based on writer-director Jasmine McGlade's own experiences as a competitive fencer, to buyers in Berlin.
Zoe Saldana is set to enter the highly competitive world of fencing with Fencer, from writer-director Jasmine McGlade.
HanWay Films will handle international sales and distribution on the project and introduce it to buyers at next week's European Film Market in Berlin. UTA Independent Film Group and CAA Media Finance are overseeing the U.S. sale.
Saldana Avengers: Endgame, Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy is attached to play Mae, an ambitious female athlete facing personal demons and childhood rivals as she vies for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. As Mae competes to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, a tragic accident leads Mae to question everything about her life and fencing career as a life-long ambition weighs heavy on her shoulders and her greatest goal lies within reach.
Casey Affleck Manchester by the Sea, Interstellar, A Ghost Story is producing with Whitaker Lader. Affleck and Lader previously teamed up on Light of My Life and Mona Fastvold's The World to Come starring Vanessa Kirby and Katherine Waterston, currently in post-production. Also producing are McGlade and Claudia Bluemhuber of Silver Reel The Wife, Loving Vincent, Official Secrets who is also financing. Oscar winner Imagine Entertainment Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Rush, 8 Mile will executive produce.
Fencer is inspired by McGlade's experiences as a national champion fencer. McGlade capped her tenure at Harvard University by leading her team to the school's first-ever NCAA Championship title in fencing.
"As a writer and filmmaker I seek to tell brazen, character-driven stories about people who are flawed, and thus real. Especially women. Characters who are their own worst enemies and yet incredibly resilient," said McGlade commented.
"Fencer is a celebration of perseverance and sacrifice, while also a cautionary tale about the dangers of getting one's sense of worth and security solely through achievement and external validation. Fencer will provide one of the screen's first realistic glimpses into the thrilling world of fencing, much more demanding and diverse than stereotypes may suggest, and an intimate and intense look into the minds and lives of female athletes." Affleck and Lader added: “We feel so lucky to be a part of Fencer, which is an unflinchingly honest look at an ambitious, complex woman whose relationships and motivations defy simple categorization. The powerful script forces us to ask ourselves some of life's most fundamental questions: 'What defines you? Is it your work, reputation, relationships? What matters most to you and what will you do to protect that?' We immediately fell in love with Jasmine's unique story and perspective, and since partnering have...
Today, April 3, 2020, would have been a big day for DC fans in a slightly alternate universe as the Cyborg movie was originally supposed to hit theaters today. Instead, it's been more than two years since we've seen Ray Fisher's version of the character on screen in Justice League and there is no indication that we're going to see him again, at least not anytime soon. So, that begs the question, what happened exactly?
That's a difficult question to fully answer but, in the most simple terms, things changed. Cyborg was originally announced by Warner Bros. way back in 2014 during the earliest days of what we now know as the DCEU. Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, the first entry in this universe, hit theaters in 2013 and the studio began assembling long-term plans to make their own version of what Disney had done with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ray Fisher had been cast to play the role of Victor Stone, aka Cyborg, first briefly in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, then later, far more significantly, in Justice League. The plan was to then give the character a standalone after the big team-up.
Unfortunately, things didn't pan out. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released in March 2016 and proved to be far more divisive than the studio expected. Many critics rejected Zack Snyder's dark vision for the DC universe and audiences were split. Filming for Justice League was scheduled to start mere weeks after BvS was released. In many ways, the train had already left the station. Snyder, who suffered a family tragedy during production, left the project. Joss Whedon The Avengers was brought in to oversee massive rewrites and reshoots. The result is not at all what Snyder had intended, even though he remains the credited director.
By the time Justice League hit theaters in November 2017, it was clear Warner Bros. was moving away from the Snyderverse. Yet, a very devoted group of fans has been calling for the studio to Release the so-called Snyder Cut in the years since. Whether or not things would have ultimately changed, had Snyder presented his vision in theaters, is something we can never know. Would the Cyborg solo movie still have happened? Would Cyborg and The Flash have teamed up in the Scarlet Speedster's solo movie, as was on the table at one point?
Many fans took to social media to pour one out for the movie that never was, showing love to Ray Fisher, who undoubtedly got the short end of the stick in this whole mess. It led to quite a few #ReleaseTheSnyderCut tweets, as Victor Stone's role in the original version of Justice League was more substantial and quite a bit different. As crazy as it sounds, the Snyder Cut may be our best chance at seeing more of Fisher's Cyborg and it feels like a major long shot as Warner Bros. has no plans, so far as we know, for a solo movie at this time. Feel free to check out some of the tweets we collected below.