Ben Wallace's week goes from bad to worse. Amid continuing criticisms of the botched evacuation from Afghanistan, news reaches Steerpike that talks have begun about making the story of Operation Ark into a Hollywood film. It was said that the story of Penn Farthing's evacuation of his animal sanctuary from Kabul had every thing: drama, tragedy and a rich cast of heroes and villains. And now that story could be told with the rest of the world, judging from the interest already being expressed.
Animal welfare campaigner Dominic Dyer, a close friend of Farthing, told Steerpike that while the immediate focus had been on the evacuation of the at-risk animals, discussions have already begun about dramatising Penn Farthing's tale. He said:
“It’s just early stages of discussion I think but it’s fair to say that it’s got a lot of interest generated by various people, particularly in the US at the moment and Spencer Haber who we have been working with makes documentaries, makes a lot of films in the film sort of area and he’s interested in thinking about what we might do with scripts and talking to producers. But it’s early at the moment, not going to happen in the immediate few weeks.
Dyer, a near-constant presence on television screens in recent weeks, went on to issue a veiled threat to those in Whitehall who questioned the motives of Farthing's rescue mission:
“There’s a very good story here that’s got global interest, both from the Whitehall perspective and events on the ground in Kabul as well. I’m confident it’s going to turn into that but it’s not going to be overnight but I am saying to people that they need to maybe take that into account because I think there’s a lot of stories here which will turn into something of that kind. I think there’s also books and things like that being looked at as well, I know that.
Haber of course is the billionaire who funded flights for Operation Ark and is described as a 'key driver' in turning the story into a film. While casting is a long way off, Steerpike wonders who could play such roles. Rory Kinnear as Ben Wallace perhaps? Toby Stephens as Farthing? Supporters Ricky Gervais and John Simm could of course play themselves. Dyer added:
“It’s had a lot of interest from America, I’ve done quite a bit out there on the media but Penn's done a huge amount on the media – Fox and CNN and all the chat shows and that kind of thing so it’s got significant interest as a story on the issue of Afghanistan. It’s got more legs now because of growing concern about the dogs that the Americans left on the runway.
A horror show or a heart-warming tale? Steerpike looks forward to watching and finding out.