Focus sides with Yago's 'Underdog'


Focus Features has bought "Underdog," a drama from Gideon Yago, a longtime correspondent for MTV News.

In the past seven years, Yago has produced, written and hosted award-winning specials on the Iraq War, the Sept. 11 attacks, the 2000 and '04 elections, Hurricane Katrina, the South Asia tsunami, the Kashmir earthquake and such issues as poverty, AIDS, drugs and hate crimes. He spent time with President Clinton and Bill Gates in Africa and has interviewed politicians, musicians and Hollywood stars.

Yago decided to write a screenplay because of "a bad run" he had between 2004-05. During that period, he spent time with young soldiers in the Middle East, covered the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina and the Kashmir earthquake and was receiving many late-night phone calls from the young soldiers he had met in Fallujah and Baghdad.

"A lot of residual stuff kept building," Yago said. "I was fried. I figured the best way to tackle it was to get all of the dark stuff out."

"Underdog" is set in a town in which one of its sons returns home in disgrace and must reconcile with the mother of a buddy who died in Iraq. Meanwhile, another young solider — the guy's best friend — returns as a hero, though the truth might be more murky.

"I wanted to write a movie about small-town America, about growing up, and make it more understandable," Yago said. "It's so not black and white. It's going to take a lot of years for these guys to make sense of the experience they've had. And their families, too."

Yago said that 75% of the Marine Corps is 22 and younger and that the U.S. has sent 1.3 million people to serve in the war against terrorism, "many of them from the MTV generation."

He added: "I wanted to tell the story as best as I could, and it came out this way. … I'm pleased as punch that someone is taking a chance on this."

Focus exec David Gerson is overseeing.

The deal also included a blind script component.

Yago is repped by WMA and 3 Arts Entertainment.