Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: While the material marketplace has cooled as the holiday approaches, studios have been tempted by a pitch for a fact-based thriller that has Ridley Scott attached to direct and produce through his Scott Free banner, Gerard Butler to star, and Robert Edwards (The Bomb In My Garden) to write the script. Scott will produce with Giannina Facio and Alan Siegel. Butler wants to play Simon Mann, a former British army officer who in 2004 put together a band of mercenaries to attempt a coup against the president of Equatorial Guinea. The coup attempt was thwarted in Zimbabwe, where Mann went to pick up weapons. He spent five years in a harsh prison there before being taken to Equatorial Guinea where he was sentenced to 34 years–but spared that sentence when he received a presidential pardon in 2009.. His backers –Mann said one was Mark Thatcher, son of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—disavowed involvement with Mann after the coup failed. Both Mann and his wife Amanda have been making the rounds at studios the past several days along with Edwards, and insiders say there are high hopes this will end in a deal. Scott and Facio are also developing a biopic of Middle East pioneer Gertrude Bell and Gucci, the Fox 2000 focusing on the volatile relationship between Maurizio Gucci and ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani, who drew a 26-year sentence for plotting his 1995 murder. Angelina Jolie has been mentioned for Gertrude Bell and Natalie Portman for Gucci.