What does it take to disappear in America in 2010?  Starting today, four contestants in a first-of-its-kind event will find out.  Universal Pictures, in conjunction with Wired magazine and Lone Shark Games, announced today that four Runners—with a $7,500 bounty on each of their heads—have been selected to drop everything and go on the lam for an entire month.  Their pursuers?  Anyone in America.

The contest is inspired by Universal Pictures’ futuristic action-thriller Repo Men (www.repomenarecoming.com), opening March 19, and Wired’s December 2009 feature story, “Gone.”  For the Wired story, reporter Evan Ratliff attempted to live under a new identity—and elude a nationwide citizen manhunt—for a month (www.wired.com/vanish/2009/11/ff_vanish2).  Ratliff made it 25 days before being caught by a team of Facebook hackers, Twitter sleuths and New Orleans pizzeria owners.  We will soon find out if four new people, scattered in cities across the country, can do even better.

To succeed, the contest Runners must outwit a legion of self-deputized pursuers known as the Repo Men, named after the occupations of the film’s lead characters.  Starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker, Repo Men is set in the near future where artificial organs, called artiforgs, are available on layaway.  Artiforg recipients who fall behind on their payments will have their organs tracked and repossessed by the repo men, with no concern for patients’ comfort or survival.

“Just as Jude Law’s character, Remy, tries to vanish from the men chasing him, Universal’s partnership with Wired creates a real-world experience to showcase the challenges of vanishing in a digital world,” said Doug Neil, senior vice president of digital marketing, Universal Pictures.  “We can’t wait to see how far our contestants get.”

“We are always searching for innovative ways to bring the magazine to life,” said Wired vice president and publisher Howard Mittman.  “This contest gives the Wired community a chance to interact with emerging technologies that challenge privacy in the digital age, a subject we explore often within our pages.”
Readers over the age of 18 can sign up at www.wired.com/repomen to become Repo Men, unlock the clues and track down the Runners.  Whoever is able to locate a Runner in person, take his or her photo and say a code word will win $7,500.  Any Runner who lasts a month without being caught stands to gain up to $10,000.  The Runners will be operating under a series of constraints and challenges, and Runners and Repo Men alike are forbidden from breaking the law.  Clues will be hidden at every turn.

“Our Runners are out there hiding among 300 million people,” said Lone Shark president Mike Selinker.  “Of course, that’s 300 million people who might turn them in …”

The contest begins today and continues until 12:01 A.M. on March 25, or when the Repo Men capture all of the runners—whichever comes first.  The Hunt’s Runners include Ciji, who has spent hours imagining how she’d disguise herself; Usman, whose whereabouts shift with Heisenbergian uncertainty; Alex, a self-described “smart, sassy, athletic girl who loves adventure”; and Will, a former Army soldier who trained NATO forces in SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist and Escape) school.

Let the Hunt begin.

In the futuristic action-thriller Repo Men, humans have extended and improved our lives through highly sophisticated and expensive mechanical organs created by a company called The Union.  The dark side of these medical breakthroughs is that if you don’t pay your bill, The Union sends its highly skilled repo men to take back its property … with no concern for your comfort or survival.   

Jude Law plays Remy, one of the best organ repo men in the business.  When he suffers a cardiac failure on the job, he awakens to find himself fitted with the company’s top-of-the-line heart-replacement … as well as a hefty debt.  But a side effect of the procedure is that his heart’s no longer in the job.  When he can’t make the payments, The Union sends its toughest enforcer, Remy’s former partner Jake (Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker), to track him down.  

Now that the hunter has become the hunted, Remy joins Beth (Alice Braga), another debtor who teaches him how to vanish from the system.  And as he and Jake embark on a chase across a landscape populated by maniacal friends and foes, one man will become a reluctant champion for thousands on the run.