UPDATED: Kitty Kelley’s controversial unauthorized biography of Oprah Winfrey will be given the biopic treatment. Veteran TV movie producer Larry A. Thompson has acquired the rights to the book, Oprah: A Biography, published in the spring by Crown Publishers, a division of Random House.
Thompson plans to turn the book into a TV movie or a miniseries to air in September 2011, coinciding with Winfrey’s sign-off from her syndicated daytime talk show after 25 years. He is close to signing a writer for the adaptation and is already shopping the project to TV networks.
“I happen to be from Mississippi where she is from, and I know her career very well,” Thompson said. “I think it’s a fabulous story, and it’s certainly a challenge, but Kitty Kelley’s extensively researched book offers us the factual foundation to frame our cinematic portrait of this powerful and beloved icon.”
Asked about possible concerns basing a biopic on a book that has stirred so much controversy Thompson said “Oprah Winfrey is a very powerful woman, and that’s also something that will make our movie great. As for the challenge of casting Winfrey, the plan is to audition both known and unknown actresses Thompson said but after a long debate, he is leaning towards casting an unknown.”Oprah Winfrey is one of the most famous faces on the planet, and if you have an actress people know, it may make it more difficult to get into the character as the face may block the icon,” he said. The movie is being made without Winfrey’s participation, Thompson added. In public statements, Winfrey has dismissed the book, which touches upon a number of hot-button issues, including the identity of Winfrey’s father, calling it a “so-called biography.”
Thompson’s biopic experience includes films about Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz, Sonny & Cher, and the Duke & Duchess of Windsor. His latest movie, Amish Grace, became the most-watched and highest-rated original movie in the history of Lifetime Movie Network.