Scott, Free to wage own Cold War

Upcoming project takes on Reykjavik, key players

BRUSSELS -- It was a tipping point in modern history, marking the moment that the Cold War began to thaw. It brought together two iconic leaders, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, who would pull the world back from the brink of destruction.

But for helmer Ridley Scott, the 1986 Reykjavik summit was more than that. It was a very human tale with every ingredient for a gripping drama.

"These are fascinating historical characters, larger-than-life figures, but I want to show who they were and why they did what they did," the veteran British director told The Hollywood Reporter. "Their actions helped shape history, paving the way for the end of the Cold War."

Scott has signed on to make a movie of the summit, which saw the U.S. and the Soviet Union commit to reverse their build-up of nuclear weapons. It is, even by his ambitious standards, a bold project.

The as-yet-unnamed movie will have to distill Reagan and Gorbachev's 10 hours of face-to-face meetings into a compelling feature, and show how one cold, rainy October weekend transformed a tiny town on this remote, mid-Atlantic island into the center of the universe.

But, Scott points out, "It was two decades ago. This generation might well say 'Summit, what summit?' They might ask, 'Who is Gorbachev?'" Scott is clearly fascinated by the impact of people on events. "History is about cause and effect," he says. "At the time, the summit was viewed as a failure. In a puff of smoke, it was all gone. But they never do appear significant at the time."

Though Washington politics has become polarized in recent years, Scott wants to be as impartial as possible with the movie. "If you do a dramatic version of an event, you have to get as close as possible to the truth. You need to make intelligent judgment calls to get under the veneer of perception. It's like dramatized journalism," he says.

The Reykjavik script is expected to contain subplots that appear almost comically surreal. The summit itself took place in the former British ambassador's supposedly haunted residence, known as the Hofdi House. It was so cramped that the two secret services, the KGB and the CIA, had to share a tiny basement that, almost fatefully, had its own bar.

Then there's the supporting cast, which will include portrayals of CIA Director William Casey, Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Colin Powell, Richard Perle, Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev.

Scott Free has already brought together a group of entertainment and political veterans for the project. Among the executive producers are Reagan's arms negotiator at the summit, Ken Adelman, and Mark Sennet, co-creator of HBO political drama "K Street." "In 'K Street,' we just let real people and events come to life. And we'd like to apply some of that approach to this project," Sennet says. "It is also interesting to go back in time, to give it a contemporary reflection. We can look at history and mesh it in to today."

Though a writer has yet to be named to turn the treatment into a script, Scott says he is confident the film could be shot by the end of the year for release in early 2009. Representatives from Scott Free visited Iceland last summer to investigate the possibility of shooting the film in Reykjavik and have already secured permission to film at the Hofdi House.

Now 70, and knighted, Scott has no plans to slow down. He has just completed shooting 'Body of Lies' in Morocco with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, and is also planning 'Nottingham,' a revisionist take on the Robin Hood story, with Crowe as the sheriff.

A few years ago, Scott worried that he only had about four or five films left in him. Now, however, he has a new lease on life. "I've changed my mind," he says. "With experience, I approach filmmaking differently now. There is less agony, less agonizing. I can cut to the chase. But I still never forget that my specific role is to entertain. I'm not about to start doing documentaries."