-- An American hero? Count on Hollywood to enlist.
Army supply clerk and Iraqi prisoner of war Jessica Lynch was barely in the air on her way to Ramstein Air Base after her rescue when Tinseltown producers started buzzing about her story's possibilities for a television movie.
Some had even called her family in Palestine, W.Va.
"I know people who have made the phone calls," Michael Jaffe, one of a group of Hollywood producers known for ripped-from-the-headlines entertainment, said yesterday, declining to name his colleagues. "Not me. I think it's way premature."
Lynch's family, he said, needs at least a few days to adjust. But in Hollywood a few days feels like a lifetime when a juicy, heroic story is being broadcast all over the cable news stations, the rights fairly begging to be bought.
Every new detail that emerged about Lynch's story seemed designed to tantalize Hollywood all the more. In the past couple of days the world heard that the 19-year-old private was shot multiple times and stabbed, that she watched her colleagues dying around her and still continued shooting at the enemy until her ammo ran out. That was before Special Operations commandos swooped in under cover of night to rescue her.
It's the kind of thing that, well, movies are made of. (Although yesterday Lynch's family said that doctors told them that in fact she had been neither shot nor stabbed, that didn't seem to dampen enthusiasm much.)
Said Jaffe: "I didn't say I'm not interested in the rights. I'm just not chasing them. . . . It's very hard to look at that heartwarming story and not say, 'There might be a wonderful and rewarding movie in it.' "
Network executives said they hadn't yet heard from the usual pitchmen who specialize in turning real life into movies but that the proposals were almost certainly on the way.
Said one CBS spokeswoman: "When there's an event that generates that much media attention, it's natural to start getting pitches."
Other producers said it was too early to think about turning war stories like Lynch's into entertainment.
"I guess my feeling is right now the war is being covered so extensively in the news that I don't think at this point it is something we should be making movies about it. I think we're living the war," said Larry Sanitsky, who recently made a quickie television movie about the rescued Pennsylvania coal miners.
Larry Schiller, who made a television movie about the JonBenet Ramsey disappearance after writing a book about the case, said that when networks push for quick real-life dramas, the quality suffers. A good story requires time for research, and "the networks don't want to pay for it. They want it and they want it fast," he said.
Schiller said that he was reading a new memoir about the first Gulf War, "Jarhead," and that he was more inclined to option that kind of project.
"You could make that film and you'd be ahead of the game right now, rather than try to steal from the headlines," he said. "Good stories take time to tell."
Jaffe counters that Hollywood just doesn't work that way these days. "What can I tell you?" he said. "Our business works quickly."