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"Silk Road" biopic highlights a tale of true crime in Austin

Lionsgate has acquired the film "Silk Road," a crime thriller based on the true story of Austin native and criminal Ross Ubricht in his endeavors to create the Internet's first anonymous, unregulated marketplace.

Lionsgate is planning to release the film in theaters, on digital and video-on-demand on Feb. 19, with a DVD and Blu-ray release on Feb. 23.

The film, based on the Rolling Stone article "Dead End on Silk Road" by David Kushner and directed by Tiller Russell, chronicles Westlake High School graduate and young entrepreneur Ulbricht, played by Nick Robinson, as he builds the Silk Road, which became the fastest-growing black market for drugs in the world.

The website catches the attention of disgraced DEA agent Rick Bowden, played by Jason Clarke, whose affinity for substance abuse arms him for an elaborate game of hide-and-seek against Ulbricht, with high-stakes consequences and constant paranoia looming overhead.

"Silk Road is a thrilling story with the kind of stranger-than-fiction details that can only come from a true story," Lionsgate VP of acquisitions Lauren Bixby said in a statement. "This movie will keep audiences riveted by its cat-and-mouse game of a criminal mastermind being tracked by a hot-headed narc."

Ulbricht grew up in Austin and earned a bachelor's degree in physics at the University of Texas at Dallas followed by a master's in materials science and engineering at Pennsylvania State University. He returned to his home city after graduating and, following an unsatisfying attempt at regular employment, turned toward entrepreneurship.

After a few failed business attempts, Ulbricht ran the Silk Road from 2011 to 2013, under the pseudonym "Dread Pirate Roberts," after the character in the novel and film "The Princess Bride." He was arrested in 2013 and charged with a double life sentence plus 40 years without possibility of parole after being convicted of money laundering, conspiracy to commit computer hacking, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics.

At the time of seizure, Ulbricht had amassed $28.5 million.

The Silk Road has continued to make headlines, even years after the investigation into its operations was concluded. The site was shut down in 2013, though still housed $1 million in bitcoin until recently—signaling that the darkest parts of the web may yet to be uncovered.


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