As we’ve seen with The Martian, it’s often a benefit to have the author of a movie’s source material around to do publicity. Especially when the book is based on a true story or packed with scientifically accurate detail. But a lot of authors aren’t available or refuse to be. Many died long ago. Some aren’t happy with the adaptation of their work. And at least one isn’t allowed to comment.

Michael Punke, author of the 2002 historical novel The Revenant which has been loosely turned into an upcoming movie by Alejandro G. Inarritu, is not involved in a legal battle over his text nor is he necessarily supposed to be anonymous for any reason. He’s just a government official in a sensitive role and therefore, according to a 2014 profile in Maxim, he’s barred from talking to the press about this other, earlier side project. 

Punke’s current joint position, for which he was appointed by President Obama, is Deputy United States Trade Representative and U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization, jobs he serves in Geneva, Switzerland. Basically he’s a link between the WTO and Obama regarding U.S. trade agreements, by way of his boss, USTR Michael Froman.  

This is the second gig he’s had through presidential appointment. In the early ’90s, before he authored The Revenant and other books, Punke worked for the Clinton White House as Director for International Economic Affairs and served the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. Afterward, still for the Clinton Administration, he was an advisor for the USTR.

He’s clearly a very important man, but it’s still a shame he can’t participate in the promotion of The Revenant, especially for all of us curious about his research on the real story of frontiersman Hugh Glass, played in the movie by Leonardo DiCaprio, and what makes Punke’s book a novel rather than a work of nonfiction as well as how he feels about Inarritu’s further embellishments. 

Punke is hardly the first U.S. government official to publish fiction on the side. Newt Gingrich has co-written alternative history novels, such as 1945, which was published while he was still in office, and current presidential candidate Jim Webb wrote many works of fiction, plus the story behind the 2000 movie Rules of Engagement before becoming a U.S. senator.

[hat tip @KrisTapley]



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