John Edwards story to get 'West Wing' treatment

With his estranged wife hitting the chat-show circuit, his middle-aged mistress posing in her scanties for men's magazines, and a federal court considering whether to charge him with using political donations to cover up the existence of a love child, John Edwards awoke yesterday to news that he faces yet another round of very public humiliation.

The former vice-presidential candidate, who a few years ago was among the leading Democratic contenders for the White House, now faces the indignity of having the gory details of the spectacular fall from grace which destroyed his high-flying political career chronicled for posterity in a biographical Hollywood film.

Appropriately, given the intrigue which surrounded revelations in 2008 that Edwards had cheated on his cancer-ridden wife and secretly fathered a daughter with a camerawoman, Rielle Hunter, the movie is the brainchild of Aaron Sorkin, the modish writer and producer who was previously responsible for the political drama The West Wing.

Sorkin has bought film adaptation rights to The Politician, a tell-all memoir published earlier this year by Andrew Young, the former aide and trusted confidant who worked for Edwards at the time the scandal broke and became involved in an extraordinarily brass-necked attempt to cover it up. He intends to write, produce and direct the forthcoming movie.

"This is a first-hand account of an extraordinary story filled with motivations, decisions and consequences that would have lit Shakespeare up," said Sorkin. "There's much more to Andrew's book than what has been reported, and I'm grateful that he's trusting me with it."

Although Sorkin, who also wrote A Few Good Men and the TV show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, has previously concentrated on fictional scandals in the corridors of power, he no doubt considered the real life story of Edwards to have a narrative so compelling that he couldn't make it up.

In his book, Young told how he was persuaded to take part in an elaborate – and possibly illegal – cover-up after The National Enquirer first broke the story of Edwards's affair. It involved Young publicly claiming to be the father of Ms Hunter's child.

The move was remarkable, since Young had never slept with Hunter, and at the time was happily married. He nonetheless allowed Hunter, who was paid tens of thousands of dollars by Edwards's office over the course of several months, to take up residence at his family home. Edwards meanwhile publicly denied having cheated on his wife Elizabeth, who was battling terminal cancer.

Sorkin is one of the most well-regarded screenwriters and producers in Hollywood. His exit from The West Wing – he left in 2003 amid rumours of a dispute with producer Warner Brothers – led to a rapid deterioration in the quality of the TV series, which won 24 Emmy awards and two Golden Globes, and was cancelled three years later.

Sorkin enjoys a cult following, despite – or perhaps in part because of – the fact that he was arrested in possession of a heroic quantity of cocaine, marijuana and magic mushrooms in 2001. He was also responsible for the script of the hugely-hyped forthcoming David Fincher film The Social Network, about the founders of Facebook. The Edwards movie will mark his debut as a director.

In interviews yesterday, Young for his part declined to speculate about who might play himself or Edwards in the eventual film – although George Clooney is being widely suggested as good match for the role of Carolinan politician. He told reporters he trusted Sorkin not to take liberties with his memoir, and to portray him sympathetically.

"He was the perfect one to write this," Young told the Associated Press. "I was really impressed by him and really impressed how he was focused on the tragedy of this rather than the tawdry."

Speaking of tawdry, Young remains locked in a legal battle with Hunter over possession of a video tape said to show her consorting with Edwards, the then presidential candidate, during her pregnancy.

Young says he found the tape among rubbish she left behind at his property. Hunter argues that the tape was with her personal property, and has been stolen. Their legal battle for the time being continues.

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