Skip to navigationSkip to content

The author behind “The Revenant” is an international trade expert and diplomat

20th Century Fox
Think this looks hard? Try dealing with the WTO.
By Corinne Purtill
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The author of the novel behind The Revenant, director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s grueling Oscar-nominated saga of bear-on-DiCaprio violence,  is also the US ambassador to the World Trade Organization.

Despite the press frenzy ahead of Sunday’s Academy awards, Michael Punke can’t give interviews about his book or make promotional appearances due to his government position. He skipped the film’s December premiere to negotiate a $1.3 trillion trade deal in Nairobi. He can’t even sign copies of his 2002 novel.

AP Photo/Matthew Busch
The Revenant author (and US WTO ambassador) Michael Punke, left, in 2010.

A lawyer and international trade expert by day, Punke sold the film rights to The Revenant, the first of his three novels, in 2001. While the movie deal languished in Hollywood limbo, he built a successful career as a global trade diplomat.

In 2010, he was appointed the US ambassador to the WTO in Geneva and moved there with his family. He also serves as the deputy US trade representative.

Punke will attend Sunday’s award ceremony with his wife Traci (though he can’t give any interviews on the red carpet). The book’s trajectory has been extraordinary by any measure, even for a writer with an already extraordinary day job.

“We were familiar with the bureaucracy of D.C., not so much Hollywood,” Traci Punke told the New York Times. “We were like, if it ever gets made, it will be a miracle.”

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.