'Barefoot Bandit's' film rights sold for $1 million

Aug 11 2011 - 1:16pm

SEATTLE -- Colton Harris-Moore has had a lot of labels attached to him -- "Barefoot Bandit" most notably, but also via a T-shirt that bears the felonious youth's image with the words "Momma Tried." Now he'll be able add: "subject of a major motion picture."

The film studio 20th Century Fox has acquired the rights to Harris-Moore's tumultuous life story for "a tad over" $1 million, lawyers said, money that is to be used to repay victims of Harris-Moore's crime spree that ranged from the San Juan Islands in Washington to his dramatic arrest after a high-speed boat chase in the Bahamas.

"It may not be obvious, but the reason I signed the movie agreement is simple. I said that I would cooperate with a movie company only if an agreement could provide full recovery to the victims whose property I invaded and stole," Harris-Moore, 20, said in a statement written from the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, Wash.

"I am humbled to know I can now help the people I hurt, at least for the financial damage I caused them. I have absolutely zero interest in profiting from any of this and I won't make a dime off it. It all goes to restitution," he said.

Harris-Moore was 18 when he flew a stolen plane to the Bahamas in 2010 and was chased down in a stolen boat and ultimately captured. In June, he pleaded guilty in federal court in Seattle to seven felony charges.

Prosecutors detailed an extraordinary crime wave that began in the wooded cabins and markets around his home in Camano Island, Wash., and grew to include the thefts of at least five small aircraft, two cars and the burglaries of at least 100 private residences across the U.S. and Canada.

Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for the 2008 film "Milk," already has drafted a screenplay that will be updated, based on the deal, to access Harris-Moore's stories directly, according to industry reports.

"There are extraordinary details. There are so many details about his life story that have not been covered by the media or the media has gotten wrong," said Lance Rosen, the Seattle attorney who negotiated the film deal.

Rosen said 20th Century Fox was already "far along" in developing a film about Harris-Moore and could have done it without his cooperation, but the deal will now allow the full story to be told.

"So they decided to spend money. It's an extraordinary deal. I won't say it's unprecedented, but it's certainly unusual for anyone's life story to be valued this highly," he said.

Rosen said Harris-Moore was determined not to sign any deal that wasn't large enough to compensate his victims, an amount federal authorities have estimated at $1.4 million.

"The negotiations went on for a long time, for many, many months, but Fox was terrific in understanding the situation and understanding Colton's requests, and understanding that if the purchase price was so low in terms of being insignificant in terms of enabling restitution, there would be no deal," he said.

Harris-Moore faces up to 6 1/2 years in prison on the federal charges when he is sentenced Oct. 28. State authorities are expected to prosecute him separately.

"In due time I hope to earn the forgiveness of my neighbors and community, and everyone else I've hurt. I will continue to do everything in my power to make things better," Harris-Moore said in his statement. "My commitment to that endeavor is what keeps me going."

(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.

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