Steven Spielberg is in the news for his “War of the Worlds” adaptation releasing June 29, but look for him to surface again during the holidays with a touchier topic.

The Oscar-winning director’s next project springs from the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, during which Palestinian terrorists held members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage in front of a worldwide audience.

The movie, which begins shooting in Europe in July, is currently untitled. Universal and DreamWorks will co-produce the film, which is set for a late December release. Commentators are already wondering about how Spielberg will portray the various sides in the incident.

Actors currently onboard include Eric Bana (“Troy”), Daniel Craig (“Layer Cake”) and Geoffrey Rush (“Pirates of the Caribbean”).

Plot details are sketchy, but the Internet Movie Database indicates the film focuses more on the aftermath of the attacks, with Bana playing a Mossad agent tracking the terrorists who survived the incident. The Mossad is Israel’s intelligence agency.

Eight Palestinian terrorists infiltrated Munich’s Olympic Village Sept. 5, 1972, and took 11 Israeli athletes hostage. The terrorists, part of a group known as Black September, killed two of the hostages almost immediately. The other nine died in a botched rescue attempt by German authorities at an airfield, where the terrorists attempted to fly themselves and the Israeli hostages out of the country.

Three of the terrorists survived, were held by German authorities for more than a month, then released after more Palestinian terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa jet. Following these events, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir instructed Mossad agents to find and destroy the terrorists in a legendary counter-terrorist initiative.

An early report in 2004 had Spielberg’s film titled “Vengeance,” according to a Guardian story, possibly on account of the 1984 George Jonas book Vengeance, also about the Munich attack. That book was adapted for the 1986 TV movie “Sword of Gideon,” starring Steven Bauer, Rod Steiger and Colleen Dewhurst (watch the trailer here).

Marvin Levy, Spielberg’s spokesman, denied the report about the “Vengeance” title, which apparently stemmed from a New York Post gossip column. Levy also denied reports that a shooting delay resulted from terrorist threats against the movie itself.

The project was intended for production last year, but Spielberg wanted another script polish, according to a Hollywood Reporter article. While waiting on the new draft from “Angels in America” scribe Tony Kushner, the 58-year-old filmmaker re-teamed with his “Minority Report” star, Tom Cruise, for the H.G. Wells adaptation about aliens invading Earth.

Spielberg originally wanted his “Schindler’s List” star Ben Kingsley for a lead role in the Munich film, the Jerusalem Post reported, but that casting has fallen through.

A documentary about the Munich massacre, “One Day in September,” won an Oscar in 2000. The incident also inspired the 1977 movie “Black Sunday.”

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for

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