Berlin abuzz with rumours of Tom Hanks movie project

( dpa )- Tom Hanks is planning a movie about a US-born pop singer who became an idol from East Germany to Siberia after embracing communism and settling in East Berlin in the early 1970s.

For more 15 years Dean Reed was a hero in the socialist East Bloc, where his concerts were foot-stomping sell-outs until his body was fished out of a Berlin lake in June 1986.

At first, it was rumoured the Denver-born singer was murdered by the East German Stasi (secret police) to prevent him from returning to America, after becoming disillusioned with life in the east.

More confusion arose when the East German news agency ADN put out a deliberately misleading statement, suggesting Reed had died as a result of a "tragic accident."

In fact, Reed had taken his life in a moment of despair, when he was suffering from depression and was estranged from his third wife, East German actress Renate Blume .

Before committing suicide, he'd even penned a dramatic note to East German leader Erich Honecker , spelling out his private and professional turmoil.

Spokesmen at the Babelsberg Film Studios, south-west of Berlin, refused to comment on reports that a start was about to be made on the movie project, which bears the working title Comrade Rockstar .

"Naturally, we'd be delighted if Tom Hanks makes a film here. But until contracts have been signed we can make no comment," said one official.

If, as expected, the film gets the go ahead, Hanks, a two-time Academy Award-winning actor-writer and movie director, will take on the role of the singer.

Reed's first success was in Latin America where his records began to sell in the early '60s. A pacifist, he swiftly ripened into a Marxist in the revolutionary climate of South America.

"Wherever I went I was mobbed," Reed once told this reporter. "I was always sending my mother photos of myself being helped through the crowds."

Reed was arrested three times for staging anti-American protests in Chile, Argentina and later in Italy, usually against the US involvement in Vietnam.

Later in 1977, following his move to East Berlin, Reed starred in El Cantor, a movie he wrote, directed and starred in, depicting the life of Victor Jara who was tortured by Chile's military after the overthrow of President Salvador Allende in the early 1970s.

The movie, shot on location in Sofia, was shown repeatedly on East German television in the 1980s. Reed had hired 10,000 extras from the Bulgarian Youth League Komsomol specially for the film.

At the height of his East Bloc popularity, Reed was awarded the Soviet Peace Prize medal, flying to Moscow for the award ceremony.

Oscar winner Hanks has long been intrigued by the east-west nature of the Reed story. In 2004, he flew to Berlin to meet some of the singer's former show-biz acquaintances, and talk with his widow, Renate.

During his research he also visited the spot by the Zeuthener See (lake), where the singer's car was found abandoned on the shore, the night he killed himself, aged 47.

During that Berlin visit, Hanks announced that he had secured the film rights to Dean Reed's life from the singer's family, and had been given the go-ahead from the US DreamWorks Studios to produce and star in a movie about the Red Square Elvis.

Blume first met Reed in 1974 when making Kit and Co, a film in which she and Reed played lovers. They married in 1981. But their relationship was stormy, with the actress allegedly describing Reed as "a poor American showman" when their marriage later soured.

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