Steve Zaillian to Write Fox Thriller 'Dark Web' (Exclusive)

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Steve Zaillian

Joel and Ethan Coen and Dennis Lehane wrote previous drafts of the film about the creation of an online illegal-drug marketplace called "The Silk Road."

Steve Zaillian is the latest writer to surf the Dark Web for Fox.

The Night Of co-creator and Oscar-winning screenwriter has been hired to pen a rewrite of the thriller, which follows the true story of a 29-year-old idealist named Ross William Ulbricht (aka Dread Pirate Roberts) who built an online illegal-drug marketplace called "The Silk Road." Along the way, Ulbricht allegedly became a murderous kingpin.

Zaillian takes over duties from fellow Oscar-winning writers Joel and Ethan Coen, who penned the previous draft. The project, previously titled Silk Road, is based on a two-part Wired magazine article by Joshuah Bearman that was set up at the studio in 2013. The scope of the project has been expanded and now also will be based on Nick Bilton's book American Kingpin, which Fox has acquired. The book delves into more of the characters in the true story, including several agents not mentioned in the Wired articles. American Kingpin also dives deep into the alleged corruption of Carl Force from the DEA and Shaun Bridges from the Secret Service.

Best-selling author Dennis Lehane was the first writer to attached to the property, but he became unattached. Will Staples wrote the first draft.

Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping also are producing through their Chernin Entertainment shingle alongside Joshua Davis and Bearman. Zaillian most recently worked with Chernin and Topping on the upcoming Cold War thriller Red Sparrow for Fox (all three are producers on the Jennifer Lawrence starrer alongside David Ready).

Between writing and producing, Zaillian remains one of the most in-demand in film. The Schindler's List writer is currently in preproduction on the Martin Scorsese-helmed mob epic The Irishman, which he wrote. And HBO's The Night Of, which he also co-wrote, executive produced and served as director on for all but one of the episodes, is expected to be a strong contender in the Emmy race.

He is repped by WME and Gang Tyre.

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