EXCLUSIVE: It took James Gandolfini 6 years to get the story of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn to the screen. Now HBO has just given the green light to Hemingway & Gellhorn, an original movie produced by Gandolfini, who first was attached to star in the project in 2004 when it was envisioned as a feature. He then brought Hemingway to HBO through his Attaboy production banner, which has been based at the pay cable network since 2006. It was worth the wait now that it stars Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman as one of American literature’s most famous couples. Philip Kaufman will direct from a script by Barbara Turner and Jerry Stahl. Filming is slated for next year in Northern California. Gandolfini will executive produce with his producing partner at Attaboy, Alex Ryan, as well as Turner, Philip Kaufman and Peter Kaufman. Gandolfini’s managers Nancy Sanders and Mark Armstrong will serve as co-executive producers and Trish Hofmann as producer.
In 1936, Ernest Hemingway was already a legend when he met Gellhorn, a novelist and one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th Century, in a local bar in Key West. Their tumultuous romance and subsequent 5-year marriage took them to the Spanish Civil War as Gellhorn stood toe-to-toe with the literary master, putting his famous bravado and iconic style to the test. Gellhorn’s competitive nature inspired the novelist to pen one of its most famous novels, For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Hemingway & Gellhorn follows a development path similar to another biopic, Grey Gardens, which also started off as a feature and went through a long gestation period before finding its way to HBO with big-screen stars Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore onboard. It went on to become last year’s most lauded TV movie. HBO’s other recent high-profile original films include You Don’t Know Jack starring Al Pacino, Temple Grandin starring Claire Danes, The Special Relationship starring Dennis Quaid and the upcoming Cinema Verite staring Diane Lane, Tim Robbins and Gandolfini. It also is filming the five-hour miniseries Mildred Pierce starring Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce.
Gandolfini’s has been one of two projects about Gellhorn developed in the past few years. In 2008, Gillian Anderson’s company acquired Caroline Moorehead’s biography Gellhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life and hired Sharman Macdonald to write a feature adaptation for Anderson to star as the trailblazing war correspondent.
Kidman recently finished shooting comedy Just Go with It opposite Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston and will next star in Rabbit Hole. Owen is currently filming The Killer Elite and will begin production on Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s Intruders this summer.