Ben Affleck to Star in 'Falling to Earth' Drama for Bron Studios (Exclusive)

Ben Affleck - Getty - H 2019
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Screenwriter Hillary Seitz is on board to adapt Kate Southwood's debut novel, which received rave reviews when it was released in 2013.

Bron Studios is moving forward with a tornado drama based on Kate Southwood’s novel Falling to Earth, with Ben Affleck attached to star and Hillary Seitz on board to adapt.

The book, published in March 2013 by Europa Editions, is set in the small town of Marah, Illinois, starting with a day, March 18, 1925, that begins like any other. It doesn’t end like the rest, however, due to sudden tragedy when Marah is hit by the worst tornado in U.S. history, leaving the entire community leveled. Hundreds are dead, injured or homeless and all structures and homes are destroyed with one exception — Paul Graves and his family — who end the day with everything they had at the beginning, their home, business and children.

The story then follows the Graves family in the days and months that follow as they come to terms with their fate and the stark contrast of their neighbors. Per the debut novel’s description, "They watch helplessly as Marah tries to resurrect itself from the ruins and as their friends and neighbors begin to wonder, then resent, how one family, and only one, could be exempt from terrible misfortune. As the town begins to recover, the family miscalculates the growing hostility around them with tragic results."

Falling to Earth debuted to great acclaim and reviews from outlets like The New York Times, which described the work as "absolutely gorgeous," adding, "Southwood's beautifully constructed novel, so psychologically acute, is a meditation on loss in every sense." The author followed it up with 2017's Evensong: A Novel.

The film adaptation will be produced by Bron Studio's Aaron L. Gilbert, along with Affleck and Matt Damon's Pearl Street Films. Madison Ainley from Pearl Street will serve as executive producer, while Garrick Dion and Solome Williams will oversee development for Bron. Falling to Earth marks Affleck's second project for Bron, following The Way Back. That film, directed by Gavin O'Connor, was financed by Bron and is scheduled to hit theaters March 6, 2020, from Warner Bros. 

There were whispers that Affleck would direct Falling to Earth, per multiple sources, but as of right now he is just attached to star as Paul Graves and his deal is not yet done. Affleck last appeared on screens in Netflix's Triple Frontier, and recently wrapped The Way Back and The Last Thing He Wanted. His last directorial effort was the 2016 film Live by Night and, prior to that, the Oscar-winning Argo in 2012. He is repped by WME and the law firm Ziffren Brittenham.

Seitz broke out with her script for Insomnia, which was helmed by Christopher Nolan and released in 2002. Her other credits include Eagle Eye and The Woman in Cabin 10. More recently, Seitz sold an untitled thriller pitch to Amazon Studios and is also at work for ABC on a project in collaboration with Griffin Dunne on Justice based on father Dominick Dunne's article Vanity Fair about his daughter's murder. Seitz is repped by 3 Arts Entertainment and the law firm Sloane, Offer, Weber and Dern. 

Bron is currently riding high off the smash success of Warner Bros.' Joker, which was executive produced by Gilbert and is part of his company's $100 million, six-picture slate financing deal with Warner Bros. Bron's next effort is the holiday release Bombshell, which stars Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron opposite Oscar nominee Margot Robbie. 

— additional reporting by Pamela McClintock