The film will be based on Will Bardenwerper’s bestselling book “The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid” that tells the story of 12 U.S. soldiers who guarded Saddam Hussein in the months leading up to his execution. It explores the two distinct sides of Saddam Hussein: the cruel tyrant who uses torture and murder as tools and the contemplative prisoner who exhibits surprising affection, dignity, and courage in the face of death. The book delves into the guards’ experiences and shows how Saddam’s presence affected them on a personal level.
Renck, the Emmy-winning director of “Chernobyl,” will helm the project while Parets produces. Author Will Bardenwerper, a former Airborne Ranger-qualified infantry officer, will serve as executive producer. Author and screenwriter Darby Kealey will adapt the book, which is co-represented by Zoë Pagnamenta and Anonymous Content.
Under their first-look partnership, Sinestra and Fremantle are developing a rapidly growing slate of high-end series, including an adaptation of the acclaimed novel “Mouth to Mouth,” listed as one of Barack Obama’s favourite books of 2022.
Renck’s most recent feature film, “Spaceman,” starring Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan and Paul Dano, and produced by Parets, will be released on Netflix later this year.
Parets said: “Will Bardenwerper astonished us with his fearless examination of the paradox that was Saddam Hussein. While not shying away from the profound cruelty of Saddam’s reign, Will ushers us into unsettling intimacy with the perplexingly real human being behind the sceptre. It is a challenging and vital book, we couldn’t be more grateful to our friends at Fremantle for their continued support and partnership.”
Christian Vesper, CEO of global drama at Fremantle, added: “’The Prisoner in the Palace’ is a fascinating and intimate portrait of one of history’s most infamous and controversial figures, told through the eyes of his captors. Michael and Johan are the perfect creative team to bring Will Bardenwerper’s unique and powerful human story sensitively to the screen, and we are so excited to partner with them on this exceptional film.”
Variety's Naman Ramachandran contributed to this post.