Bradley Manning may be one of the most fascinating and controversial characters in contemporary American history, and Hollywood is taking notice.
Manning, who is in the sentencing phase of a trial at Ft. Meade, Md., for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks, is already an important figure in two movies out this year and at the center of another in development.
On Tuesday, a military judge acquitted Manning of the most serious charge of "aiding the enemy" but found him guilty of multiple other charges, for which he could face up to 136 years in prison.
Manning's personal story unfolds in Alex Gibney's documentary "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks," which opened in theaters in May. Though much of the narrative surrounds charismatic WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, it is Manning who emerges as the film's martyred hero. In transcripts of confessional online chats that the lonely 25-year-old Army private had with computer hacker Adrian Lamo, Manning reveals that he's grappling with his gender identity and is disturbed by information he's learning about the Afghan and Iraqi wars from his remote Army post east of Baghdad.
Manning is more of a background figure in "The Fifth Estate," a WikiLeaks drama from "Twilight" and "Dreamgirls" director Bill Condon that is due to open the Toronto Film Festival in September. Though he appears only in news reports, Manning's leaks to Assange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) are the catalyst for the online media organization's explosive growth in influence -- and subsequent targeting by U.S. government authorities.
Gibney and his producer, Marc Shmuger, have yet another Manning film in the works, a drama adapted from a book they optioned last year, Denver Nicks' "Private: Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks, and the Biggest Exposure of Official Secrets in American History."
That movie has not yet been cast, but filling the role of Manning will be a challenge. The right actor will have Manning's small size (he's 5 foot 2) and be able to portray both his sensitive, introverted manner and the simmering anger that led him to assault an officer while in Iraq -- and carry out the biggest leak in U.S. history.
Here are a few ideas for how to cast Manning. Who do you think would be the best actor to take the role? Vote and let us know what you think.
Daniel Radcliffe: The 24-year-old "Harry Potter" alumnus has a proven track record as an unlikely hero and, at 5 foot 5, he's the right physical type. Even more promising: He's getting strong reviews for playing another complex real-life figure in his latest film, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in "Kill Your Darlings."
Shia LaBeouf: The "Transformers" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" star has mostly traded on his boyish charm -- even as a tough young bootlegger in last year's independent drama, "Lawless." But it could be time for LaBeouf, 27, to show a softer side as the vulnerable Army private.
Paul Dano: In "Little Miss Sunshine" and "There Will Be Blood," Dano established himself as an actor capable of surprising intensity and, as a young Brian Wilson in the upcoming Beach Boys biopic "Love & Mercy," he'll presumably further test his range. But at 5 foot 11, he's quite a bit taller than Manning.
Aaron Paul: At 33, Paul is at the top end of the age spectrum of actors who could conceivably play Manning, but the tension he conveys as "Breaking Bad's" conflicted meth addict Jesse Pinkman reflects an actor who could handle the gray areas in the Army private's story.
Emile Hirsch: As adventurer Christopher McCandless in 2007's "Into the Wild," the 28-year-old actor portrayed a self-destructive dreamer with remarkable fidelity -- right down to losing 40 pounds for the role. His swoon-worthy good looks may be an impediment, however, as Manning's awkwardness is a key part of his story.