Bill Clinton's Debut Novel Hunting for Film Deal

The former president and best-selling author James Patterson are already planning meetings with potential filmmakers for an adaptation of their upcoming book 'The President Is Missing' (due in 2018).
Left, Reuters/Alamy; Right, Hachette Book Group and Alfred A. Knopf. Banks

Bill Clinton is headed to Hollywood — and possibly the big screen.

The former president and his collaborator, best-selling author James Patterson, already are eyeing a film adaptation of their novel The President Is Missing, out June 2018. Big film buffs, the pair have retained CAA's Richard Lovett to handle the rights and plan to meet with potential filmmakers, likely in California, later in the spring.

This would be the first book-to-film project for Clinton, who has written three books since leaving office in January 2001. Patterson has seen five of his books adapted for the screen, serving as a producer on the three most recent films. Another eight stories have been adapted for TV, most recently the 2015-17 CBS series Zoo. He's working on a CBS pilot, Instinct, based on his book Murder Games.

Clinton and Patterson also are planning to do a book tour and media interviews together to promote the book, events that will likely rival the opening of a summer superhero movie in terms of media attention and crowds. In a unique arrangement, The President is Missing will be published jointly by their respective longtime publishers, Alfred A. Knopf and Little, Brown and Co. The only other time two major publishers co-published a book like this was back in 1993 when Random House and Simon & Schuster teamed up for James Carville and Mary Matalin’s All’s Fair. Knopf chairman Sonny Mehta and Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch will co-edit and the book will feature the imprint of both companies.

Plot details are scarce, but a May 8 statement announcing the book promised "insider details that only a president can know." Added the 42nd POTUS, "Drawing on what I know about the job, life in the White House and the way Washington works has been a lot of fun."

Clinton is a well known fan of mysteries and thrillers — an article just after the 1992 election joked that one of his first priorities was to get his hands on the CIA’s rumored collection of every spy thriller and mystery ever published — and of Patterson in particular. A 1999 photo caught caught Clinton exiting Marine One with one of his books. (Patterson, who has known Clinton for 10 years, keeps a framed copy of the photo in his office).

Clinton had long toyed with the idea of writing a novel but it was Washington lawyer Robert Barnett, who represents both men, who suggested the two might have fun working together. Clinton and Patterson came up with the idea of a president who goes missing and started working on the book in late 2016, after the election. (No word on whether the fictional president at the center of the story is a Madam President or a Mr. President). 

A version of this story first appeared in the May 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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