Is It Too Soon for a Boston-Bombing Movie?

Joal Ryan
Movie TalkJuly 9, 2013

Well, that was fast — or was it? As first reported Monday by Deadline.com, the movie rights to "Boston Strong," a nonfiction account of the Boston Marathon race-day bombings that killed three and injured 264, have been snapped up by two of the Oscar-nominated screenwriters of the 2010 Mark Wahlberg hit, "The Fighter."

The amount of time that it took for the tragedy to become Hollywood-news fodder: less than three months.

[Related: Iron Man 3′s Bombings a Touchy Topic]

Still, a movie-rights deal is not a movie; "Boston Strong" isn't even a book yet — it's not due out until next year.

"New movie to bring story of Boston Marathon bombing to life, so that people of today can experience it," the Onion's A.V. Club noted, wryly, of course.

In the 1940s, it took Orson Welles scarcely more than a year after the Allies' World War II defeat of Adolf Hitler to fashion a noir tale around a Nazi war criminal ("The Stranger") and include in it real-world documentary footage of concentration camps — a Hollywood first.

Five years lapsed between the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the first big studio films about the tragedies: the harrowing, riveting "United 93" and Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center," both released in 2006.

"London River," a British drama about the 2005 London train-and-bus bombings, made its film-festival debut roughly four years after the scare; its U.K. theatrical premiere was timed to the fifth anniversary.

Eight years was the time it took to depict the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in the 2012 Oscar-nominated Naomi Watts drama, "The Impossible."

And it took about a decade for Hollywood to cast the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy in a conspiratorial light, with "Executive Action" arriving in theaters weeks before the 10th anniversary of the Dallas shooting (and decades before Stone's "JFK").

Television is typically nimbler. In the 1990s heyday of the ripped-from-the-headlines docudrama, the sagas of O.J. Simpson, Amy Fisher, and Tonya Harding all provided sugar highs, not to mention ratings.

[Related: 'Man of Steel' Tornado Scene on the Heels of Real Life Tragedy]

Still, a movie-rights deal is not a movie; "Boston Strong" isn't even a book yet — it's not due out until next year.

The Boston Marathon bombing story may yet find itself on the fast track, or maybe it won't. Maybe a movie will never come of it. In any case, Exhibitor Relations box-office analyst Jeff Bock generally doesn't think "too soon" is much of a deal breaker.

"Hollywood doesn't know the definition of 'too soon,'" he said in an email.