Well known as a screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns made his debut as a director with the 2006 HBO drama Pu-239, starring Paddy Considine. Since then he's made short films and an episode of Californication, but he's now in talks to get behind the camera for another feature. He'd also write the film, inspired by the true events outlined in the New York Times article The Professor, The Bikini Model And The Suitcase Full Of Trouble.
The story, originally written by Maxine Swann, centres on Paul Frampton, for thirty years a theoretical particle physicist at The University Of North Carolina. "A very good scientist with the emotional age of a three-year-old" according to his ex-wife, Frampton was duped into an online relationship with a supposed Czech supermodel.
Against the advice of appalled and concerned friends and colleagues, he ended up, with thudding inevitability, travelling to Bolivia in posession of a suitcase given to him by a shady mystery man. Even Frampton seemed aware that drugs were probably involved somewhere, but he carried on regardless, eventually finding himself jailed for five years. It's the classic story of a brilliant academic who understands Higgs Boson but can barely tie his own shoelaces. Sadly, the judges at his trial weren't much swayed by his "naïveté" defence.
Burns is the writer of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, The Bourne Ultimatum and Disney's long-gestating 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. But he's probably best known for his frequent collaborations with Steven Soderbergh: he wrote Side Effects, Contagion and The Informant!, with which The Professor... would appear to share some superficial social-misfit / idiot-savant DNA.
The film is developing at Film Rites, with Steve Zaillian and Garrett Basch producing. Burns' deal isn't done yet, but while he negotiates, he'll also have his play The Library to occupy his attention. It hits the stage of the New York Public Theatre in March, with Chloe Moretz in the lead.