Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Back on dry ground after helming the Biblical film Noah, Darren Aronofsky is looking for what’s next. I’d been hearing rumblings he is interested in a George Washington project, but here’s a fresh deal in the works. Aronofsky is in early talks to develop to direct Red Sparrow, an adaptation of the Jason Matthews espionage novel. 20th Century Fox bought the book in a 7-figure deal after a spirited bidding battle involving multiple studios back in April for Film Rites‘ Steve Zaillian and Garrett Basch to produce with Chernin Entertainment. The book was published in June by Scribner.

The book is set in contemporary Russia, and state intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the cast-iron bureaucracy of post-Soviet intelligence. Drafted against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress in the service, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a first-tour CIA officer who handles the agency’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. The two young intelligence officers collide in a charged atmosphere of trade craft, deception, and inevitably, a sexual attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow. Dominika winds up seeking revenge against her soulless masters, and living a fatal double life after she is recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington. She also hunts down a Russian illegal buried deep in the U.S. military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Vladimir Putin’s intelligence service. There is topicality to the tale, given the Edward Snowden affair, and the dark themes and sexy female lead fit the Black Swan director’s wheelhouse. Aronofsky is repped by CAA.

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