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John McAfee goes Hollywood with Warner Bros. movie deal

Just one of many irons in the fire

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The story of antivirus pioneer–cum–blogging fugitive John McAfee could soon hit the big screen, with Warner Bros. reportedly having optioned the tale for a possible feature film.

This isn't the first time McAfee has been approached about a movie based on his exploits. In December, he inked a deal for the rights to his story with Montreal-based production company Impact Future Media. Vice magazine, which covered his flight from his home in Belize, was reportedly also interested in developing a film.

With a deal in place at Warner Bros., however, McAfee could actually see his story brought to theaters by a major Hollywood studio.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the script for said film will be adapted from "John McAfee's Last Stand", an article on the eccentric recluse that originally appeared in Wired magazine and has since been re-released as an ebook.

The article recounts McAfee's early life in the computing industry, how he became wealthy after founding the early computer-security company McAfee Associates, and how in the late 2000s he would eventually give up his high-flying life of luxury in the US and move into a series of bungalows in rural Belize.

Ostensibly, McAfee spent his time in Belize trying to develop naturally derived antibiotics. What actually went on is much murkier, but by accounts it seems to have involved repeated run-ins with local government officials and police.

When McAfee's neighbor in Belize, Greg Faull – who had clashed with McAfee over the latter's unruly dogs – turned up dead of a gunshot wound, McAfee went on the lam, declaring that he was being framed for murder and that the government of Belize would kill him if he were caught.

Since escaping to Guatemala and eventually being deported to the US, McAfee has continued to blog about his purported exploits in Belize, offering tales that seem to grow more implausible with each new entry.

As of last week, McAfee was claiming to have operated an elaborate spy ring, in which he and a team of "operatives" extracted secrets from Belizean government officials through social engineering, covert wire taps, and by distributing laptops loaded with keyloggers. Naturally, his own life was at risk every step of the way.

It's hard to tell just what, if any of this, to believe, especially considering McAfee's rather fluid relationship with the truth. When asked whether his self-professed consumption of designer drugs called "bath salts" might have altered his perceptions, McAfee retorted that he hadn't used any kind of drugs since 1983, and that his earlier claims of having manufactured and distributed mass quantities of bath salts in Belize were just a prank.

He later faked a heart attack while being held in a Guatemalan jail, and has since admitted to posting further false statements on his blog, purportedly as a way of misdirecting Belizean authorities.

Still, Hollywood is no stranger to implausible stories, and even if a script based on "John McAfee's Last Stand" stretched the truth, it would certainly be a change from such comparatively bland computer-industry biopics as David Fincher's The Social Network and the upcoming film based on the life of the late Steve Jobs.

Warner's offer is presumably also more lucrative for McAfee than his previous deals, although no figure has been named. That should be good news for him, since his cost of living has spiked somewhat lately. After getting the boot from Guatemala, McAfee has settled in Portland, Oregon – a rather more expensive region than Belize – reportedly to work on various autobiographical projects, including a book and a graphic novel in addition to films. ®

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