The trial of US military whistleblower Bradley Manning isn't even quite over, with his sentence due to be decided today, but his complex and controversial story is already in the works as a Hollywood movie. The Oscar-winning documentary-maker Alex Gibney (We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks) optioned the rights to Denver Nicks' book on the Manning case last year, and he and producer Marc Shmuger currently have the project out to writers, with the intention of coming up with a dramatic feature.
If you've not heard or seen the news this morning, Manning has been convicted of 17 of the 22 espionage charges against him, and of amended versions of four of the remaining five. He was acquitted of the most serious charge of "aiding the enemy", but still faces a possible maximum sentence of 136 years in military jail as we write this. His crime - if you consider it such - was the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified US military documents concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of which were published by WikiLeaks and its offshoots and connections, and many of which were massively embarrassing to any number of international governments. Manning has been in custody since July 2010.
As a movie narrative it has the scope for impressive, almost terrifying escalation, essentially beginning with a guy sitting at a computer and developing into a global political shouting match, with Manning simultaneously vilified as a traitor and named Time Magazine's man of the year. Some even cite his leaks as the catalyst for the Arab Spring. It seems likely that Manning's personality will also play into the drama: sources have suggested he was emotionally fragile due to institutionalised bullying about his sexuality, and that the leaks were a form of revenge. And of course, there's scope for courtroom drama.
"I hope Judge Lind will be lenient in her sentence", says Gibney, "taking into consideration Manning's intent, his willingness to take responsibility for his actions, and the outrageously abusive treatment he has received at the hands of the Obama administration".
The eventual movie is obviously some time away yet, but it's not the only WikiLeaks saga on the way. Bill Condon's The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange, opens TIFF in September, and is out in the UK on October 11.
Denver Nicks' book Private: Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks, And The Biggest Exposure Of Secrets In American History is published by the Chicago Review Press.