Fremantle and Sinestra to adapt The Prisoner in His Palace

Fremantle and Sinestra, the new production outfit from Emmy award-winning Director Johan Renck (Chernobyl) and producer Michael Parets (Spaceman), have announced a new feature film adaptation The Prisoner in His Palace; an evocative and thought-provoking account of the 12 U.S. soldiers who guarded Saddam Hussein in the months before his execution.

Based on Will Bardenwerper’s best-selling book, The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaidthe film is one of a growing slate of projects under the new Sinestra-Fremantle partnership that was announced last year.

The Prisoner in His Palace will be produced by Parets & Renck for Sinestra in partnership with Fremantle and is being developed for Renck to direct. Author Will Bardenwerper, a former Airborne Ranger-qualified infantry officer, will serve as executive producer. International best-selling author and screenwriter Darby Kealey is set to adapt the book, which is co-represented by Zoë Pagnamenta and Anonymous Content.

The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid is woven from multiple first-hand accounts and explores the two very different Saddams coexisting in one person: the defiant tyrant who uses torture and murder as tools, and a shrewd but contemplative prisoner who exhibits surprising affection, dignity, and courage in the face of looming death. In Bardenwerper’s artfully constructed narrative, Saddam, the “man without a conscience,” gets many of those around him to examine theirs. Wonderfully thought-provoking, this remarkable book reveals what it is like to discover in one’s ruthless enemy a man, and then deliver him to the gallows.

Parets adds “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, Fremantle commented “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.”

Producer and Director Johan Renck is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker whose credits include the critically acclaimed limited series Chernobyl (HBO/Sky), which earned 19 Emmy nominations, 10 Emmy wins, including Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series and Outstanding Limited Series.

Renck directed all episodes and co-produced the BAFTA nominated limited series The Last Panthers (Sky/Canal+), starring John Hurt and Samantha Morton. He also directed pilots and episodes of the popular TV series Vikings, Bloodline, Shut Eye, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Halt And Catch Fire and Bates Motel.

Renck most recently directed the highly anticipated feature film Spaceman which will be released by Netflix later this year starring Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan and Paul Dano.

Under their first-look partnership, Renck and Parets’s Sinestra is working with Fremantle to develop a rapidly growing slate of high-end series including an adaptation of the highly acclaimed novel Mouth to Mouth, listed as one of Barack Obama’s favourite books of 2022. The first-look deal was brokered by Fremantle’s Christian Vesper, CEO of Global Drama and Seb Shorr, Executive Vice President, Commercial & Business Affairs, Scripted and Renck’s team at Casarotto Ramsey & Assocs., CAA, Black Bear Pictures, and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern.

The partnership is one of several creative collaborations and development deals that Fremantle has forged with world-class talent including Angelina Jolie, Paolo Sorrentino, Luca Guadagnino, Nicholas Weinstock, Natalie Dormer and most recently with Oscar-winning director Edward Berger.