You know Outside, I’m sure. It’s the only national magazine to win
best magazine writing awards three years in a row. Outside also happily
boasts of fathering, as it were, at least two major best-sellers in both
hardback and paperback: “The Perfect Storm” and “Into Thin Air,” both of
which started their heady careers as original articles in the magazine.
Interestingly enough, this national magazine is published out of Santa
Fe, N.M.

Well, Outside has struck gold again, and in an even bigger way. You
may remember reading in the newspapers this August, just a couple of
months ago, about four young American world-class climbers taken hostage
in the Asian mountains of Kyrgyzstan by fundamentalist Moslem rebels set
on ransoming them.

Outside journalist Greg Child, a climber himself, won exclusive
access to the four climbers (one woman, three men) on their return to
the United States. The story in the magazine brings to light new
information and goes into the traumas suffered by the climbers.
Practically within a few weeks, Universal and the Kennedy-Marshall Co.
had emerged victorious from a tight bidding war with a deal of some
seven figures to produce a major motion picture of the scary adventure.

The story, “Fear of Falling,” that appears in the November issue of
“Outside,” on sale Oct. 17, is a white knuckler to beat just about any
other white knuckler you may ever have encountered or read about. You
don’t read this article. You gulp it down, reading as fast as you can.

Four Californian Americans all in their 20s — Jason Smith, Beth
Rodden, Tommy Caldwell and John Dickey — had the adventure of their life
when they were taken captive, already fairly high in the mountain they
were planning to scale, and forced to march for six days, not knowing
from one day to the next whether they would be shot by their captors or
by soldiers aiming at the rebels. Beth Rodden had the added fear, as the
only woman, and a young and attractive one at that, of rape.

They watched their captors kill soldiers in a skirmish. They saw
their supplies plundered. Totally cut off from the world and terrified,
they still tried to hatch a plan for escape involving helping their
captors scale the rough mountainous terrain — a terrain they were more
comfortable with precisely because of their vast climbing experience.

Eventually they made their way to freedom after a singularly
stressful escape in which one of their captors was sent plunging to his
death. As Child puts it, “Falling, the rebel arcs through the circle of
the moon, pedaling air.” Even freed of that one captor, they still had
to make their way under fire, eluding the other rebels set on
recapturing them, before they finally found freedom.

The November article has also been sold as a book to Villard (Random
House) in a six-figure deal for North American rights — and we’re not
even talking paperback rights, I assume. Universal and producers
Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall bought the rights to use this
material as well as to the life rights of the climbing quartet.

Universal President Kevin Misher and Executive Vice-President Mary
Parent engineered the movie sale. UTA agents, responsible for brokering
the sale of Sebastian Junger’s “The Perfect Storm” (also based on an
article in “Outside” magazine), represented the four climbers and writer
Child. The fact that “The Perfect Storm” was one of this summer’s most
successful movie hits here and abroad certainly must have eased dealings
for the agents (who worked with literary agent Susan Golomb, who put
together the publishing deal). And needless to say, that movie’s success
certainly attuned Hollywood’s interest in true-life survivalist fare as
prime fodder for today’s youth-oriented market.

One thing you can be sure of: the movie won’t be shot on location in
Kyrgyzstan, no matter how dramatic the scenery.

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