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The story of internet phenomenon Brother Orange is getting the movie treatment.
Warner Bros. is teaming up with BuzzFeed to bring the story to the screen, and developing the project with Flagship Entertainment, the joint venture between CMC Holdings and the studio founded last September to target the Chinese market.
The Orange sensation began when BuzzFeed editor Matt Stopera had his iPhone stolen in 2014. Unbeknownst to him, the cellphone made its way across the continent, across the Pacific and into China, and a year later, random pictures began appearing on his photo stream, including a number of pictures of a serious-looking man in front of an orange tree.
The editor did a series of stories about the incident, and the story went viral in China, exploding on social platform Weibo with more than 20 million views in 24 hours and over 100 million total shares. There, the online community dubbed the man Li Hongjun (“Brother Orange”) and helped Stopera track him down. Stopera eventually sought out Hongjun in China, with both becoming overnight celebrities. Back in the U.S., the two appeared on Ellen.
The plan for the feature is to adapt the story in one about an unlikely, accidental friendship that transcended cultural divides.
Michael Shamberg and Matthew Henick, head of development at BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, will produce. Stopera is executive producing alongside Broad City co-creator Ilana Glazer (who happens to be his roommate), Ellen DeGeneres and Jeff Kleeman.
This is the first film project from BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, the Los Angeles video arm of BuzzFeed, better known for web series like You Do You and The Try Guys.
Hollywood has been waiting for a BuzzFeed movie since 2014, when it rebranded its two-year-old video division BuzzFeed Motion Pictures and tapped Shamberg, the veteran movie producer known for Pulp Fiction and Erin Brockovich, as an advisor to help it forge deeper Hollywood relationships.
In an interview at the time, Shamberg explained that BFMP offered an opportunity to develop and test ideas online before taking them to more traditional outlets. “When we develop stuff here, then we can upstream it to movies and TV,” he said. “It’s a real opportunity for talent and it’s a real opportunity to complement the studio system.”
Flagship was founded in response to the rapidly growing demand for high-quality Chinese-language movies around the world.
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