Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels has signed on to The Brian Banks Story for Amy Baer‘s Gidden Media. The project, which is out to writers, will be produced by Baer and directed by Daniels. Justin Brooks and Neil Strum are executive producing.
Profiled in a 60 Minutes piece, Banks was an high school All-America football player who had committed to USC’s prestigious program in 2002, but his life was turned upside down when a classmate falsely accused him of rape. He maintained his innocence, but a hasty plea bargain resulted in a five-year-plus prison sentence. With the help of the California Innocence Project, his conviction was overturned in 2012. He returned to the gridiron after a 10-year hiatus, playing in the UFL and going through six NFL tryouts before finally making the Atlanta Falcons’ 75-man roster in April 2013. Although he only played in four preseason games, Banks fulfilled his lifelong dream and is now a motivational speaker and an activist and spokesman for the California Innocence Project.
“Lee is a filmmaker who looks at challenging circumstances with honesty, compassion, and hope,” said Baer. “He has an emotional connection to Brian’s story that I’m certain will result in a powerful and redemptive film.”
Said Banks: “All I ever wanted was to prove my innocence. Telling my story in the form of a feature film is beyond my wildest dreams. Having Lee Daniels come on board to direct the film is so exciting and such an honor.”
Daniels received Oscar nominations as director and producer of 2009’s Precious. His most recent film, last year’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler, grossed more than $167 million worldwide. The Weinstein Company is prepping Daniels’ next film, about Richard Pryor.
Former CBS Films head and Sony Pictures exec Baer launched Gidden Media in November 2013 to develop content for both feature films and long-form television. Her first stint as a producer — the 2013 feature Last Vegas -- grossed more than $136 million worldwide. Gidden Media’s slate includes the period romantic drama A Storm In The Star, directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour and starring Elle Fanning; Forever, Interrupted, the adaptation of the debut novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid with Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades Of Grey) attached to star; the sports drama Sarge; and Endurance, a limited series for Sony Pictures Television based on a script by Oscar winner Steve Zallian and to be directed by Wolfgang Petersen.