By Bob Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Deep Throat has a book deal and a movie deal, and he could end up being played by Tom Hanks.
The family of 91-year-old W. Mark Felt, who revealed his role as The Washington Post's key Watergate source two weeks ago, has chosen PublicAffairs Books to publish a combination of autobiography and biography, publisher and CEO Peter Osnos said last night. Osnos said that Universal Pictures has optioned Felt's life story and the book for a movie to be developed by Hanks's production company, Playtone.
He said the book will blend Felt's own writing about his life, including his out-of-print 1979 memoir, "The FBI Pyramid: From the Inside," and some unpublished material, with contributions from Felt's family and from lawyer John D. O'Connor, who has been advising the Felts. O'Connor wrote the Vanity Fair article that named Felt as Deep Throat after the secret had been kept for 33 years.
The additional material from Felt, Osnos said, includes discussion of how he decided to provide guidance to Post reporter Bob Woodward, and why.
The book is to be published next spring. Its working title is "A G-Man's Life: The FBI, Being 'Deep Throat' and the Struggle for Honor in Washington."
David Kuhn, the New York-based agent who has been representing the family in conjunction with Beverly Hills-based Creative Artists Agency, said last night that "Hanks's company was interested in the rights to the story within a day or two" of the revelation of Deep Throat's identity. He said the movie deal was concluded Tuesday night.
Kuhn would not comment on the sums paid in either the book or the movie deal, except to say that the family's decision on the book "was not based on money" but rather on the vision for its publication put forth by Osnos, a former Washington Post reporter and editor who helped cover the Senate Watergate hearings.
PublicAffairs generally doesn't pay advances of more than $75,000.
Neither Felt's daughter, Joan, nor his son, Mark Jr., returned phone calls last night. Kuhn said they would be "interviewed for the book and would participate in the storytelling."
During the two weeks the Felt project was being shopped, it met with considerable skepticism from publishers. The two reasons usually cited were the health of the elderly Felt, whose physical and mental deterioration appeared to preclude new contributions from him, and the presence of a competing book from Woodward, who had already written his own version of the Deep Throat story.
Woodward's "The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat" is being rushed into print. His publisher, Simon & Schuster, has set a publication date of July 6.
Warner Books publisher Jamie Raab said last week that she had heard the Felt pitch and decided not to bid. "The book is not a Watergate book per se," Raab said. "It's not going to answer some of the lingering questions. . . . They're sort of writing around Mark Felt's life."
Little, Brown editor Geoff Shandler expressed skepticism as well, but he didn't rule out the success of a Felt book. "Traveling in Woodward's wake could be a profitable place to be, depending on what you pay and when you publish," Shandler said. "There is an equation that would work."
But publishing executives agreed that the real money was on the Hollywood end.