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.
Starz to Develop ‘Kin’ Series With Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine
Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine banner has inked a deal with Starz to develop “Kin,” Variety has learned.
The multi-generational family drama comes from “Queen Sugar” and “Constantine” writer Davita Scarlett, who developed the project with Chester Jones III. Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine film and TV head Lauren Neustadter are on board as executive producers alongside Scarlett.
“The opportunity to work in partnership with Davita Scarlett as well as Reese Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine on this series is serendipitous,” Starz president of programming Carmi Zlotnik said in a statement. “Hello Sunshine puts women at the forefront of the stories they are telling, and that fits perfectly into Starz’s overall programming strategy to offer compelling content that appeals to female audiences.”
Witherspoon described Scarlett’s script as “utterly original, complex, and incredibly nuanced.”
“She deftly explores issues around identity and the secrets family members keep to protect themselves and one another. I’m so excited to team up with Starz to bring these strong, memorable female characters to life on screen,” Witherspoon said.
On Friday, Reese and her Big Little Lies co-stars and writer David E. Kelley attended the Winter TCA Press Tour HBO Panel, to preview the upcoming 2nd season of their show. They talked about what we can expect from the new season, including that there will no longer be the ‘Greek chorus’ of characters commentating on events, that the tone is more dramatic, and that the focus is on dealing with the ‘trauma’ of what happened at the end of season 1. David E. Kelley commented that there is “no such plan” for a season 3. We’ve compiled a whole batch of tweets from the panel which you can read below, along with a couple of articles. Reese wore a simple but elegant blue dress by Michael Kors for the event. Find lots of high quality photos in our Gallery!
Universal Joins Reese Witherspoon, J.J. Abrams, Jordan Peele in Committing to Hiring Female Directors
Universal Pictures’ Peter Cramer, Focus Features’ Peter Kujawski and DreamWorks Animation’s Margie Cohn have committed to hiring at least one female director in the next 18 months as part of the 4% Challenge.
The development was announced Tuesday and comes in the wake of Time’s Up and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative launching the challenge on Jan. 25 at the Sundance Film Festival. The organization said on Monday that more than 50 high-profile Hollywood producers — including Reese Witherspoon, J.J. Abrams, and Jordan Peele — have committed to the 4% Challenge.
The initiative is part of the Timesupx2 campaign to double the number of women in leadership positions.
The name is derived from women having directed only 4% of the country’s top grossing movies over the past decade. Nina Jacobson, Paul Feig, Amy Schumer, Angela Robinson, and Franklin Leonard committed to the promise during a panel discussion on Friday, and Tessa Thompson inaugurated the challenge during a keynote address. Regina King was the first to pledge to taking the 4% Challenge during her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, vowing to employ at least 50% women on everything she produces.
Lena Waithe, Rashida Jones, Olivia Wilde, Armie Hammer, Kumail Nanjiani, Josh Gad, Amy Pascal, Bryce Dallas Howard, Brie Larson, Eva Longoria, Rachel Brosnahan, Constance Wu, Janet Mock, Brad Simpson and Kerry Washington are among the notable producers on board.
The Sundance Film Festival recently reported that 31% of feature-length submissions this year had at least one woman director, as did 35% of episodic and shorts content. Of feature films and episodic content accepted in 2019, 41% had a woman director while 52% of shorts did.
Reese graces the cover of the new February issue of US Vogue! The magazine features a story on her as the “moral compass of Hollywood” (which is a great title for her!), and features an extensive new interview and a new photoshoot – including a photo with Betty and Ava. It’s a fantastic article exploring how Reese’s career has developed, and focuses mostly on her recent move into production and business; there are also some great quotes from Cheryl Strayed, Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep. I also liked reading about where her Oscar is, and that she has hardbound copies of scripts from her movies!
Read the full article below, and find high quality photos from the cover and the shoot in our Gallery. We’ll have scans for you soon. Make sure you pick up a copy when you can!
Reese Witherspoon: Activist, Advocate, Hollywood’s Moral Compass
The first time Reese Witherspoon found herself suspended from school was in third grade, when she was caught running a custom-barrette business from her desk. (She painted store-bought barrettes and sold them at a profit; when her paint pens leaked onto her desk, she was apprehended.) Another time was during her junior year, at a private girls’ high school in Nashville, when she complained to her English teacher that the work they were doing wasn’t challenging enough. Witherspoon was in many ways a model student—good grades, popular, a soccer player and cheerleader—but she also had a reputation for telling teachers what they were doing was wrong.
“I always tended to be outspoken with my opinions,” she says. “Whether they were appropriate or not.”
More than two decades later, Witherspoon is still fighting the status quo. Insofar as Hollywood is an extreme version of high school, a fishbowl of fragile egos, insecurity, and often-misdirected sexual energy, she has taken it upon herself to be a champion of the overlooked and the underestimated. She may still bear the imprint of the perky-blonde roles that kept her in American-sweetheart mode for the better part of two decades, but something’s changed beneath the surface. Witherspoon has become a formidable businesswoman, launching a company that has a hand in just about every imaginable sector of contemporary media, and she’s become a formidable activist as well, fighting for greater representation in Hollywood of people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and—most of all—women.
“The idea is to put women at the center of the story,” Witherspoon says, sitting barefoot and in jeans in the kitchen of her sunny, sprawling Los Angeles home as her three dogs—a German shepherd named Nash (short for Nashville), a French bulldog named Pepper, and a lab named Hank—amble and snort among the rooms. “I was sick of making movies where I was the only female lead on the set. I was sick of seeing scripts where there was one female role, badly written, and yet every actress in town wanted the part because there was nothing else.”
There is perhaps no greater example in the history of television of putting women at the center than Big Little Lies, the HBO sensation that picked up eight Emmys in 2017. Witherspoon executive-produced the series with Nicole Kidman, with whom she also stars alongside Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz, and Shailene Woodley. In the second season, which airs in late spring, Meryl Streep will bring the show’s number of female leads to six.
MGM Partners With Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine On ‘Eleanor Oliphant’; Liz Hannah Scripting
MGM has teamed with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine on the film adaptation of the Gail Honeyman bestselling novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Set to write the script is Liz Hannah, who wrote the Steven Spielberg-directed The Post. It is a potential star vehicle for Witherspoon. She is starring for MGM in Legally Blonde 3 and the studio has made it a priority to find more film vehicles for her to star in and produce.
Reese Witherspoon and Lauren Levy Neustadter will produce for Hello Sunshine.
Hello Sunshine optioned the book May, 2017. Eleanor Oliphant is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine who goes from living a lonely life to realizing the only way to survive is to open your heart. The novel was published by the Penguin Random House imprint Pamela Dorman Books. Witherspoon optioned the Glasgow-based novelist’s book very early and it went on the sell over 1 million copies in the U.S. and Canada with a long run on the bestseller lists.
Eleanor Oliphant author Honeyman is repped by The Artists Partnership, Emily Hayward Whitlock and Madeleine Milburn Ltd.
Said Witherspoon: “Gail has created an incredibly smart, funny, and eccentric character who beautifully demonstrates the ways vulnerability and human connection can so deeply enrich your life. Eleanor’s journey is utterly extraordinary. To know her is to love her, and I’m so excited to team up with MGM and Liz Hannah to bring this unbelievably gorgeous character to life on-screen.”
Said MGM President of Motion Picture Group Jonathan Glickman: “For over 17 years, Reese has been an integral part of the fabric of MGM both in front and behind the camera, and we couldn’t be happier to continue this partnership with her Hello Sunshine team on this wonderful and beloved novel.”
Cassidy Lange will oversee on behalf of MGM.
Honeyman is repped by The Artists Partnership, Emily Hayward Whitlock and Madeleine Milburn; Hello Sunshine is represented by CAA and Hansen, Jacobson; Hannah is repped by UTA, Echo Lake Entertainment and Jackoway Tyerman.
Reese Witherspoon to Produce ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ Adaptation for Fox 2000
Fox 2000 has acquired the best-selling novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” and has tapped Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine to produce a feature film adaptation.
Witherspoon’s involvement is not a great surprise. The Oscar winner has been a champion of the book, selecting it for inclusion in her Reese’s Book Club. “Where the Crawdads Sing,” Delia Owens’ debut novel, has been on the best-seller list for the past 12 weeks. Fox 2000 is also a natural home. Under the leadership of Elizabeth Gabler, the label has developed a knack for turning literary properties into movies, developing the likes of “The Fault in Our Stars” and “The Devil Wears Prada” into hit movies.
“With a jaw-dropping mystery, stunning Southern setting, and endlessly fascinating female heroine at its center, I loved this book the moment I read it and am so excited to join forces with Elizabeth and her team to bring Delia’s truly moving page-turner to the screen,” Witherspoon said in a statement.
“Where the Crawdads Sing” is set in a small town in the South and focuses on a young woman named Kya who raises herself in the marshes after she is abandoned by her family. After her former boyfriend is found dead, Kya becomes the prime suspect in his murder. The book has been described as a mixture of a crime thriller and a coming-of-age tale. Witherspoon and her partner Lauren Levy Neustadter will produce the pic for Hello Sunshine.
The storyline is in keeping with Hello Sunshine’s mandate. Witherspoon founded the company in 2016 with the goal of promoting female-driven projects. That fits in with “Where the Crawdads Sing,” which is written be a female writer and has a female protagonist. Other Hello Sunshine projects include a Hulu adaptation of Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestseller “Little Fires Everywhere” that will feature Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, and “Are You Sleeping,” an adaptation of Kathleen Barber’s novel of the same name that will be executive produced by and star Octavia Spencer.
“I knew and loved Delia’s writing so when I saw that Reese’s Book Club was recommending her new book, I started reading it right away. It is absolutely exquisite, so I immediately reached out to Reese and Lauren and said I wanted to bring it to life on film alongside them,” Gabler said in a statement. “We at Fox 2000 have an incredible synergy with Reese, Lauren, and their team at Hello Sunshine, and I am elated that we can once again be partners in the creation of yet another extraordinary film from an outstanding literary property.”
Gabler and Erin Siminoff will oversee production for Fox 2000.
Owens is new to fiction writing, but she has literary experience, having co-authored three acclaimed non-fiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist. They include “Cry of the Kalahari,” “The Eye of the Elephant,” and “Secrets of the Savanna.”
Owens is represented by CAA and Russell Galen of Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency. Hello Sunshine is represented by CAA and Hansen, Jacobson. G.P. Putnam’s Sons published “Where the Crawdads Sing” in August.
Here’s Reese on Aussie news show Sunrise earlier this month, promoting ‘Whiskey In A Teacup’. She also mentions Big Little Lies, cooking for her BLL co-stars, her Australian friends Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts & Isla Fisher, and Ava’s ‘win’ on the night Reese won her Oscar!
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