Millie Bobby Brown, Filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu Tackling ‘The Thing About Jellyfish’ for Universal
Millie Bobby Brown and Kenyan film director Wanuri Kahiu are teaming up to adapt acclaimed YA novel The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin.
Universal has optioned the rights to the 2015 book published by Little Brown and is developing the adaptation with producers Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane of MWM Studios, Bruna Papandrea, and Reese Witherspoon.
The producers have been developing the project since 2017, when MWM, the company behind the upcoming Motherless Brooklyn from Edward Norton and Chadwick Boseman’s 17 Bridges, acquired the rights, hiring playwright Molly Smith Metzler to work on what would be her first feature script, which made the 2017 Black List.
Jellyfish tells the story of a young girl named Suzy as she enters seventh grade. When her former best friend dies in a drowning accident — and not believing her mother who says that sometimes “these things happen” — Suzy becomes convinced that the true cause of the tragedy was a rare jellyfish sting. She retreats into a silent world of her imagination and begins crafting a globe-trotting plan to prove her theory, with the book exploring the ideas of life and death, the frailty of friendships and the potential of hope right next door.
The book was Benjamin’s debut novel. It was not only a commercial success, but also a literary smash, named as a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award.
Brown is attached to play Suzy.
Adrian Alperovich and Melissa Rucker will executive produce on behalf of MWM Studios. Jeanne Snow will also exec produce. Senior exec vp production Erik Baiers and director of development Lexi Barta are overseeing on behalf of Universal.
Brown is one of the stars of Stranger Things, whose season three arrives July, and stars in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which hits the big-screen May 31. She is repped by WME and Hansen Jacobson.
Kahiu wrote and directed the LGBTQ film Rafiki, which made history last year as being the first Kenyan film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival even as the movie was banned in her home country due to its themes. She is repped by CAA and Gotham Group.
Benjamin is repped by CAA while Metzler is repped by WME and Granview.
Reese Witherspoon, Fox 2000 Tackling Vietnam Drama ‘League of Wives’
Fox 2000 and Reese Witherspoon are tackling the story of a little-known but key part of the Vietnam War.
The studio has preemptively acquired The League of Wives, an upcoming non-fiction book by Heath Lee, for Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine banner to produce an adaptation.
The book, which is to be published by St. Martin’s Press in April 2019, tells of a group of women — wives of military men who would never describe themselves as feminists — that banded together to save their husbands. When their fighter pilot husbands were shot down, captured and imprisoned for years under deplorable conditions during the Vietnam War, the group of well-educated military wives transformed into a league of take-charge lobbyists, human rights activists and even spies determined to do everything in their power to bring their POW and MIA spouses home. By 1973, the group had brought back 115 men.
“At Hello Sunshine, we strive to showcase brave, brilliant female characters, and the women of League of Wives are all of that and more,” Witherspoon, who will produce with Hello Sunshine exec Lauren Levy Neustadter, said Wednesday in a statement. “From the minute I heard about this inspiring true story, I knew it was a perfect fit for us. I’m excited to be partnering with the team at Fox 2000 to bring this special book to life onscreen, and to be giving audiences a glimpse at this meaningful moment in American history.”
Marisa Paiva and Molly Saffron will oversee for Fox 2000.
Lee is a museum curator and writer of women’s history and her book, whose complete title is The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the President, the Pentagon and the Rest of the US Government to Bring Their Husbands Home, is partially based on her museum exhibition on the same subject. She is repped by UTA and Katherine Flynn at Kneerim & Williams.
Reese Witherspoon Producing Comedy ‘Americanized’ About Undocumented Iranian Family From Sara Saedi At ABC
ABC has put in development Americanized, a half-hour comedy inspired by Sara Saedi’s memoir Americanized: Rebel Without A Green Card, from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and ABC Studios, where Hello Sunshine has a broadcast overall deal.
Written by Saedi (iZombie), Americanized tells the story of a loving and off-beat Iranian family who’s been living with a huge secret: they’re undocumented immigrants. Told through an irreverent, heartfelt and a-political lens, the series will give viewers a window into the life of a Middle-Eastern household while exploring the universal truths that bond every type of “American” family.
In the book, Saedi shares her story of growing up in San Jose, California in a loving Iranian family and her shock when she discovers she and the rest of her family are undocumented.
Saidi executive produces with Hello Sunshine’s Witherspoon and Lauren Levy Neustadter. ABC Studios is the studio.
The deal comes nine years after ABC took a stab at an Iranian family comedy with Funny In Farsi, based on Firoozeh Dumas’s “Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America.” The project went to a pilot directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, marking the first pilot order for producer Aaron Kaplan, but did not make the cut to series.
In the past few years, ABC has been looking to expand its family comedy brand to better represent different sections of American society. The network successfully launched an African-American family comedy with Black-ish, an Asian American family comedy with Fresh Off the Boat and also tried to find another hit Latinx family comedy with Cristela. In addition to Americanized, ABC also is developing multi-generational Latinx family comedy Food and Familia from Peter Murrieta and Overbrook Entertainment starring Danny Trejo whose life inspired it.
In addition to the CW’s iZombie, Saedi previously wrote for Fox’s The Goodwin Games. She is now on the upcoming ABC/ABC Studios drama Grand Hotel. Saedi is repped by Gersh and Nacelle Company.
Hello Sunshine’s series portfolio includes a limited series at Hulu from Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestseller Little Fires Everywhere; a comedy series for Apple created by Colleen McGuinness and inspired by Curtis Sittenfeld’s short-story collection You Think It, I’ll Say It; Apple series Are You Sleeping, executive produced by and starring Octavia Spencer; a limited series adaptation of the novel Daisy Jones & The Six for Amazon; and an Untitled Morning Show series at Apple produced by and starring Jennifer Aniston and Witherspoon. The company is repped by CAA and Gretchen Rush.
Reese Witherspoon, MGM Bringing The Gang Back For ‘Legally Blonde 3’
MGM is near a deal with Reese Witherspoon to reprise her role as the precocious, idealistic Elle Woods in Legally Blonde 3, and they’ve brought back most of the creative team from the first film.
The pic is coming together quickly. Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith and Karen McCullah, who adapted the Amanda Brown novel for the 2001 first film, are in final talks to write the script. Original producer Marc Platt and his Platt Productions president Adam Siegel are producing, and they will be joined this time by Witherspoon, through her Hello Sunshine banner.
The scribes will begin writing immediately and the next step is to secure a director. Robert Luketic helmed the original pic.
It has been 17 years since the original, and the sequel, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde came out in 2003. But the film has been a staple for young-female audiences who’ve rediscovered it on DVD or through the hit stage musical that continues to tour. The original grossed $141 million worldwide on an $18 million budget, and the sequel brought in $124 million on a $45 million budget.
The deal gives MGM another branded title, alongside Creed and the James Bond films. Creed 2 is in production with Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren and Florian Munteanu, and Bond 25 was just firmed with Daniel Craig returning and Danny Boyle directing the script by John Hodges, and Universal releasing overseas.
They are keeping the plot under wraps, but I’m told it will be much in the spirit of the first film, in which Woods’ idealism and pink-dominant wardrobe prevailed over the cynicism and snootiness all around her after the freshly dumped former sorority sister heads to law school. The sequel brought her to D.C. to join the staff of a congresswoman to pass a bill to ban animal testing. The intention here is to make this more about female empowerment, a message that hits at a fortuitous time in the culture. The feeling is to draw back in the audience that grew up with the original film and find a new global audience.
The project reunites Smith and McCullah, who as a team generated such comedies as Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You and House Bunny, and with credits on She’s the Man and The Ugly Truth. Witherspoon is repped by CAA and LBI Entertainment; Smith is with Verve, Kaplan/Perrone and attorney Karl Austen; McCullah is with Jaret Entertainment.
Reese appears on the cover of the June issue of Fast Company, a US business magazine. She is named one of their ‘100 Most Creative People in Business’ (#11 to be exact), and the magazine features an extensive new interview and a new photoshoot. See some behind the scenes videos on the magazine’s website, and find scans and photos from the shoot in our Gallery. It’s fantastic to see Reese recognised for her work like this!
How Reese Witherspoon is flipping the script on Hollywood The Hello Sunshine founder is channeling women’s voices into top-tier entertainment–and altering the dynamics of the entire industry along the way.
When Reese Witherspoon was 17, she had already appeared in four films. Still, she took an unlikely part-time job, as an intern in Disney’s post-production department. “I wanted to learn about editing, visual correction, and sound mixing,” she tells me 25 years later. Not long after, she worked as a production assistant on the 1995 Denzel Washington film Devil in a Blue Dress, helping with casting, among other things. Also: “I parked Denzel’s Porsche!”
That inquisitiveness, as well as nearly three decades in front of the camera, has made Witherspoon one of Hollywood’s most astute producers. She turned Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl into a $369 million worldwide hit in 2014 (that earned Rosamund Pike an Oscar nomination) and did it again, that same year, transforming Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir, Wild, into a breakout success ($52 million plus Oscar nods for Witherspoon and costar Laura Dern). Then came HBO’s Big Little Lies, executive produced with costar Nicole Kidman; the cultural bellwether about female relationships and domestic abuse, based on a novel by Liane Moriarty, swept nearly every category for which it was nominated at the 2017 Emmys. After years of hearing from studio executives that there was no market for female-driven films, Witherspoon had succeeded to a degree that proved a hunger was there.
Her instinct for what women want is now being tested on multiple platforms through her 18-month-old storytelling company, Hello Sunshine. She and her team currently have shows in development at Hulu, NBC, and Apple TV (which has partnered on three projects, one rumored to be the biggest deal in history for a straight-to-series show), as well as a film at TriStar/Sony Pictures. But Witherspoon is also laying the foundation for a direct-to-consumer brand, one that is already beginning to speak to women through a website, social media, YouTube and Facebook videos, audiobooks, podcasts, and newsletters—whichever platform she and Hello Sunshine execs think best honors the story being told.
Reese can be seen on the cover of the new April issue of Marie Claire UK – it’s the same interview as the earlier US edition, but it has a couple of new photos from the shoot. I love this photoshoot, and I’m glad they’ve chosen a slightly different shot for this cover. Pick up a copy asap if you can, and find the scans in our Gallery:
Reese made an appearance on Good Morning America on Wednesday to promote A Wrinkle In Time. She chatted about her recent visit to her Star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, Time’s Up, the importance of representing women in film, Big Little Lies season 2, Little Fires Everywhere with Kerry Washington, and her upcoming Untitled Morning TV Show with Jennifer Aniston. Reese also received a special message from Dolly Parton who had been on the show last week; Reese mentioned that she “has a show coming on in about a month” in which she interviews Dolly Parton, so we’ll keep an ear out for more information on that in the coming weeks! Watch the interview below, and find screencaptures in our Gallery:
Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington to Star in ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ TV Series
A star-studded adaptation of Celeste Ng’s best-seller Little Fires Everywhere has sparked a frenzy among TV buyers.
Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon are set to star and exec produce the limited with multiple premium cable and streaming networks bidding. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that a parade of network execs took meetings Wednesday at Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine offices this week in a bid to land the series.
Released last year, Witherspoon’s company snatched up the rights to Little Fires Everywhere shortly after its publication and brought it to ABC Signature Studios topper Tracy Underwood. The cable-focused arm of ABC Studios will exec produce the potential series, which has ignited a bidding war among those who have heard the pitch. Sources note that several outlets attempted to take the package off the table, but Witherspoon and those involved insisted on letting everyone hear the pitch as they mull the right home for the series. (In a rare move, network execs went to the Hello Sunshine offices rather than producers hopping from network to network.)
The book follows the events that transpire after the controversial adoption of a Chinese-American baby divides wealthy Shaker Heights, Ohio — and specifically a landlord and her mysterious tenant, single mother Mia. Liz Tigelaar (Casual, Life Unexpected) will pen the script, exec produce and serve as showrunner. Washington and her ABC Studios-based Simpson Street banner-topper Pilar Savone will exec produce. Witherspoon will also exec produce via her ABC Studios-based shingle alongside Hello Sunshine topper Lauren Neustadter. Author Ng will serve as a producer. The book was a September pick of Witherspoon’s book club and an instant best-seller, appearing on many year-end best-of lists for 2017.
Little Fires Everywhere is the latest TV venture for Witherspoon. The actress and prolific producer also has the upcoming second season of HBO’s Emmy-winning Big Little Lies due in 2019, and is set to star opposite Jennifer Aniston and exec produce an untitled morning show drama that landed at Apple with a two-season order. The Oscar winner and Emmy nominee’s Hello Sunshine is also exec producing Apple’s Kristen Wiig’s straight-to-series comedy and developing Octavia Spencer starrer Are You Sleeping for the tech giant. Witherspoon is repped by CAA, LBI Entertainment and Hansen Jacobson. Hello Sunshine is repped by CAA and Hansen Jacobson.
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