20th Century Fox has hired screenwriter Will Staples to pen the script for DARK WEB, based on reporting by Wired magazine’s Joshua Davis and Joshuah Bearman, including the article ‘The Untold Story of Silk Road’. Ivana Lombardi will serve as the production executive, with Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping producing through Chernin Entertainment. Mark Roybal will oversee for Fox.
The story focuses on the remarkable true story of 29-year-old Texan Ross Ulbricht, an aspiring entrepreneur who harbored a sinister secret identity: Ulbricht was allegedly the drug kingpin known as ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’, the owner and administrater of the notorious Silk Road, an online bazaar that became known worldwide as ‘the Amazon.com for illegal drugs’.
At its height, the Silk Road generated $1.3 billion in sales–but all of that came to a crashing halt after Roberts put a hit out on his customer service representative, a 47 year-old Mormon from Utah. The hit, however, turned out to be part of an elaborate sting orchestrated by a DEA agent, and triggered to a race between the DEA and FBI to uncover Roberts’ true identity.
Ulbricht was arrested for suspicion of drug trafficking, soliciting murder, facilitating computer hacking, and money laundering. In May, he was sentenced to life in prison.
The intriguing world of the deep web certainly has the potential to translate into a big screen blockbuster. Once considered a nearly-impossible task, recent movies and television series have proven that the world of computer hacking and the underground internet can, in fact, be a captivating cinematic subject. Films like The Social Network and Blackhat, as well as acclaimed television series like Halt and Catch Fire and Mr. Robot, seem to have put that question to rest.
Back in 2013, Dennis Lehane was brought on to write a draft of the then-titled Silk Road, but the project eventually stalled. With recent developments in Ulbricht’s real-life drama, however, it looks as though the film is back on track. As for Staples, the in-demand screenwriter seems tailor-made for this thriller, which combines action, adventure, technology and a true story.
Staples, who got his start writing for video games, displayed a knack for testosterone-driven spectacle early on, with credits that include blockbuster games Lair, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and Need for Speed: Rivals. Staples currently has several projects hovering around the action-adventure space, including King Tut at Di Bonaventura Pictures, Apaches with Jerry Bruckheimer Films, and an as-of-now untitled project with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Pearl Street Films about a team of mercenaries who set out to kill a brutal African warlord.
Josh Lyons | Staff Writer