HUMANITAS Winner Michael Mann Discusses His New Film


michael-mann-mainAllegations of industrial cyber-espionage and mass electronic snooping have been flying hot and heavy between Washington and Beijing recently, but director Michael Mann's upcoming cyber-thriller imagines an American and a Chinese army officer — two former MIT roommates — teaming up to stop a ruthless, profit-driven hacking network.

In the yet-to-be-titled film, slated for release in January by Universal, “Thor” star Chris Hemsworth plays a black-hat hacker serving federal time who gets furloughed to help a liaison group hunt down a nefarious network operating from somewhere unknown, Mann revealed in an interview. Hemsworth's character, Nicholas Hathaway, is promised that if the mission succeeds, his sentence will be commuted.

Leehom Wang, an American who's built a massive career as a pop singer in China, portrays Chen Dawai, a Chinese citizen who attended the Bronx High School of Science and then went on to MIT, where he roomed with Hathaway. Despite different backgrounds — Hathaway is the son of a steelworker, Chen comes from a more elite family — the two men are “very tight,” the director said.

Mann said that in the wake of 2010 Stuxnet computer worm, which attacked Iran's nuclear program, he became fascinated with what was happening in the world of cyber-crime and cyber-espionage.

“I started researching this about two years ago in Washington with people who were heavily involved in countering cyber intrusions, from former members of the CIA and FBI to people in the private sector,” Mann said. “Everything that's become front page (news) six or seven months ago was mostly apparent two years ago if you dug into the subject.”

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