He was labeled the "Johnny Cash of Communism," the only American to receive the Lenin Prize for art. Never mind that audiences here didn't know him. In the Soviet Bloc, American folk singer Dean Reed was a star after converting to Communism and moving to East Germany in the early '60s.
Now Reed's story, which came to a mysterious end in June of 1986, is being developed for the screen.
Producer Ed Pressman ("Wall Street," "Walker") has just bought rights from Will Roberts, Reed's longtime friend. "He's acting with the blessing of Reed's estate," Pressman told us. "He's in touch with Reed's widow," East German actress Renata Blume.
A docu film maker, Roberts spent time with Reed in the Soviet Union and later worked with "60 Minutes" on a Reed segment. It was that telecast--which found Reed admitting that he'd like to return to the States because "I have a great fear of growing old and dying in a country where the language is not my own"--that brought Reed to Pressman's attention.
Six weeks after that confessional interview aired, the 47-year-old Reed was found dead in a lake near his East Berlin home. His daughter would later allege that East German agents killed her father.
"Some people saw him as a hero," said Pressman. "Some people saw him as a traitor. I guess his life was both a comedy and a tragedy. As for politically, well, one of the things that was fascinating about the guy is that he came from such a conservative background."
Shooting in Red Square might be a possibility, Pressman said, though he admitted Kremlin script approval might be an attached string.