Ludlum's Sigma Protocol Back On Track

Ben Hartman is the new Jason Bourne (?)

Last we heard, Robert Ludlum's typically doorstop-y thriller The Sigma Protocol was on the fast track for movie development at Universal. The thing is, that was back in the summer of 2008; maybe there were leaves on the line. This morning though, comes the news that, as the Bourne franchise prepares to return with The Bourne Legacy, The Sigma Protocol has also resurfaced, with veteran Irwin Winkler writing and producing.

Published in 2001, The Sigma Protocol was Ludlum's final novel, and is about Ben Hartman, a young investment banker on holiday in Switzerland, who discovers that a secret organization (comprised of top corporate CEOs and nazi war criminals) has long been controlling the global economy. Witnessing a killing gets him embroiled in the conspiracy, which in turn sees him marked for death and on the run with a female FBI agent.

"It's an ordinary guy who gets caught up in international intrigue, and who teams with this operative who is declared a rogue by the CIA,” says Winkler. “Unlike Bourne, who is a trained assassin, this is an innocent guy traveling in Europe who gets in way over his head. And it has all the great Ludlum intrigue."

The last version of the screenplay was by Iron Man writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, but it sounds as if Winkler will be starting from scratch for this version. He's co-writing with Jose Ruisanchez, who started out in visual effects but seems to have moved into producing through some time as Winkler's assistant. He doesn't seem to have any other writing credits.

Plot-wise, this looks to have some of the hallmarks of those travelogue 60s caper movies like Charade and To Catch A Thief (which is up for a remake). Recent attempts to revive that genre, however (Knight And Day, The Tourist), fared badly, so we're interested to see where Sigma Protocol might be heading.

As a producer, Winkler was behind successes like Rocky, The Gambler and Goodfellas, all of which have recently resurfaced in some form (Rocky as a musical, Gambler as a remake and Goodfellas as a TV series). "It’s nice to see this activity on past films, and it’s also nice to have some fresh action,” he says.