EXCLUSIVE: New Line Cinema has optioned the inspirational true story of ballet prodigy Misty Copeland, who fought against the odds to become the only the second African-American female soloist to dance with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. Offspring Entertainment’s Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot alongside Phil Sandhaus will produce the feature film adapted from Copeland’s bestselling memoir Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, which Stephanie Allain and Lenore Kletter are set to script.
In what’s shaping up to be The Blind Side set in the dance world, the film will chronicle Copeland’s striking rise to dance stardom. The late bloomer began training in ballet at age 13 while living in a welfare motel with her mother and siblings, learning so quickly she was dancing en pointe within months. She went from lessons at the local Boys & Girls Club to living part-time with a sponsor family while attending dance school. But as her ballet career escalated, so did a bitter custody battle between her mother and her host family.
Copeland has performed with Prince at Madison Square Garden, serves on President Obama’s fitness council, and appeared as a guest judge this season on Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance. Next month she will make history again as the first African-American ballerina to dance lead in ABT’s Swan Lake. She co-wrote her memoir Life In Motion with author Charisse Jones, which burned up the NYT bestseller list after hitting shelves in March, and will work with producers as a consultant. The film will focus on Copeland from age 13 to late teens, and filmmakers will be searching for a multi-talented young performer with dance training to play the prima ballerina. The project also has meaty roles for two actresses to play Copeland’s mother and mentor.
Shankman and Gibgot are producers with a fondness for dance stories who previously produced the Step Up franchise as well as The Last Song, Hairspray, and 17 Again. They film Mean Moms this fall for New Line and earlier this year sold a pitch based on the dating app Lulu to E! and sold 1960s NYC drama Open City to HBO.
Dave Neustadter and Andrea Johnston are executive producers, and Paradigm’s Dana Spector repped the book rights. Paradigm and Nina Shaw of Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcan completed the deal on behalf of Copeland, Gilda Squire of Gilda Squire Media Relations, and Steve Troha of Folio Literary Management. Offspring is repped by UTA and Bloom Hergott.
Watch Copeland share her story in an Under Armour ad that went viral this summer: