Allison Pataki writes about treason and love triangles.
Her first book, a historical novel called “The Traitor’s Wife: The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America,” delves further into the stories that fed her imagination as a child. Growing up in Hudson Highlands, N.Y., Pataki heard all about turncoats and patriots. When she looked outside her window, she could see West Point, where Benedict Arnold was headquartered. She hiked the woodland path that served as Arnold’s escape route.
This story first appeared in the March 24, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A historical marker along the path piqued Pataki’s interest in Peggy Shippen Arnold. She found out that Shippen had a past romance with the British spy John André, who was Benedict Arnold’s coconspirator. Shippen was the third integral character in the plot, “a charming young woman who not only contributed to the betrayal, but orchestrated it,” Pataki claimed.
At a lunch in honor of Pataki on Friday at the Modern, her staunchest supporters turned out, including her father, former New York Gov. George Pataki. “I’m just so proud of her,” he said. “She worked hard her entire life. She’s passionate about writing. We lived in the midst of where it happened.”
Harvey Weinstein, cochairman of The Weinstein Company, said, “I read the book and loved it. The governor is a great friend. Many people see me as a Democrat, and I am. I took the governor [when he was in office] and introduced him to Hollywood, to Sydney Pollack and Warren Beatty. He was embraced by Hollywood because he spoke as a pragmatist. I hope he reemerges in politics.” But don’t count on it. The governor said that these days he’s “working with a great law firm and having a ball.”
Asked if he wants to option the book, Weinstein said, “I’m here as a family friend. I want Allison to make her own decision. Katie [Holmes, who was standing across the room], would be great in the roll of Peggy Shippen. I’d like to make that happen.”
Asked whether she’d like to play the cunning Mrs. Arnold, Holmes said, “Definitely.” She just finished the movie “The Giver,” which is opening in August. “It’s based on a beloved book,” Holmes said. “It’s a beautiful story about a young boy breaking out. I worked with Meryl [Streep] and Jeff Bridges.”
In “Miss Meadows,” which will be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, Holmes plays a prim substitute teacher who is also a vigilante. “It’s a quirky little comedy,” she said. Holmes is also shooting a pilot for ABC TV with Taylor Hackford based on “Dangerous Liaisons.”
Allison Pataki told the assembled crowd — which included Tina Brown, Desiree Gruber and producer Jean Doumanian — that “The book is doing better than I could have ever imagined. I’m grateful to friends and family who came forward to support me. We’re turning to the movie side. Katie, you could play Peggy. Harvey, I don’t know if you have anything going on.”
Pataki is already working on her next historical novel, which is about the Hapsburg Empire. “Universal is very interested” in the film rights, she said.