BBC & HBO Team For Film On Plane Hijacker D.B. Cooper From ‘My Scientology Movie’ Director John Dower

Jake Kanter

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EXCLUSIVE: The BBC and HBO are co-producing a feature-length documentary on the unsolved mystery of plane hijacker D.B. Cooper, nearly 50 years after he vanished without a trace in 1971.

The Mystery Of D.B. Cooper is helmed by John Dower — an Emmy-nominated director who made Louis Theroux film My Scientology Movie — and the producer is Minnow Films, which has won BAFTAs for documentaries including 7/7: One Day in London and The Detectives.

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The film seeks to unravel the mystery surrounding D.B. Cooper, who boarded a Northwest Orient Airlines plane in November 1971 and hijacked the flight while it was still on the tarmac. He claimed to have a bomb in his briefcase and demanded four parachutes and $200,000, which he exchanged for the 36 passengers on board.

Cooper ordered the flight to take off for Mexico City and somewhere on the journey, he managed to jump out of the back of the aircraft with a parachute and the money, and was never seen again. His disappearance is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in the history of the FBI, which closed the book on its investigation in 2016.

Mandy Chang, who commissioned The Mystery Of D.B. Cooper for the BBC’s Storyville strand, said the broadcaster was “intrigued” by Dower’s film from its inception, adding that it captures an era when airport security was radically different from what it is today.

“John’s obsession with understanding why so many Americans identified with a mystery airplane hijacker who became a cult figure, following in the tradition of criminal icons like Butch and Sundance or Bonnie and Clyde, was infectious,” Chang said. “His film paints compelling portraits of multiple suspects, each one as convincing as the next and in doing so asks deeper questions about memory, identity and truth.”

The Mystery Of D.B. Cooper is executive produced by Minnow CEO Morgan Matthews, while Anna Stephens is the producer. Altitude Films was involved in drumming up financing for the film three years ago, before Minnow took it to the BBC. Altitude is now no longer involved in the project.

As Deadline revealed last week, the D.B. Cooper mystery is also the subject of a documentary in a History strand fronted by Laurence Fishburne. The Matrix star is hosting History’s Greatest Mysteries, which will spotlight the work of D.B. Cooper expert Eric Ulis in an episode titled The Final Hunt For D.B. Cooper.

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