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Casey Affleck and Joe Wright are teaming up to adapt Stoner, the acclaimed 1965 novel by John Williams.
Blumhouse Productions, Cohen Media Group (CMG) and Film4, who made the announcement Tuesday, are behind the feature project.
Andrew Bovell, a playwright-turned-screenwriter who previously wrote Lantana and the Mel Gibson thriller Edge of Darkness, is penning the script that adapts the story that tells the “hardscrabble life of William Stoner, a dirt-poor farmer turned academic, who emerges as an unlikely existential hero while making his way through the first half of the 20th century,” according to the companies.
The novel was not a success when it was first published, but its literary merits were rediscovered in the early 2000s, with The New Yorker calling it “the greatest American novel you’ve never heard of.”
The adaptation marks an departure from the norm for Blumhouse, the banner usually known for its horror movies. “Because the novel is so beautiful but not well-known, fans of Stoner feel like they’re in a secret club,” said producer Jason Blum, who optioned the book in 2011. “I’m so excited that Casey, Joe and Andrew have come aboard to help expand this club’s membership.” (Blum has ventured outside his usual zone before, with 2014’s Whiplash being one example.)
Blum is producing with Charles S. Cohen of CMG and Daniel Battsek of Film4, with Ethan Hawke serving as executive producer. (Battsek and Blum brought the project to Film4 for development during Battsek’s time as president of CMG, so he retains a producer credit on this one occasion, on what has long been a passion project of his, according to the announcement.)
Affleck, who won an Oscar earlier this year for his work in the drama Manchester by the Sea, has two films in postproduction, including The Old Man and the Gun, with Robert Redford, and Light of My Life, a drama which he also directed.
Wright is known for his lush period dramas such as Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. His latest, Darkest Hour, which finds Gary Oldman portraying Winston Churchill, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and is already generating Oscar buzz.
Affleck is repped by WME and Ziffren Brittenham. Wright is with CAA. Bovell is repped by Kate Richter at HLA Management in Australia and Jerry Kalajian at International Property Group.
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