EXCLUSIVE: Viktor Frankl’s groundbreaking Holocaust memoir Man’s Search For Meaning is finally heading for the big screen. Fuego Films, the feature partnership between Ben Silverman and Hands Of Stone producer Jay Weisleder, has teamed with Emmy-winning journalist Giselle Fernandez to secure the book. Fernandez landed the option through her F Squared production banner. They’ve set Adam Gibgot to write the script.
Frankl, a psychotherapist and contemporary of Sigmund Freud, developed his skills in an impossible setting. He was among those sent to the concentration camps by the Nazis, and he used his therapeutic skills to inspire prisoners to fight for their survival by finding meaning in their suffering. Once he was liberated, Frankl then used his experiences in the camps as the basis for what became a pioneering form of therapy he called Logotherapy, or healing through meaning. Frankl, who died in 1997, long held back the option rights to his work, but his estate made a deal with Fernandez. They will shop the project once they get a script from Gibgot, who is writing The Accidental Genius for Warner Bros and Team Downey. Gibgot will be exec producer along with Mary Cimuluca, who reps the estate.
Gibgot described the spirit of the film as closer to Life Is Beautiful than many others that showed the horrors of those camps. Frankl was prominent enough in his field that he could have left Vienna, but stayed because of his aging parents and a wife who was pregnant. His entire family was wiped out, but Frankl’s unbreakable spirit defined him. “After WWII, there was tremendous collective guilt toward Germans who looked away, and when he returned to prominence, he was the only Jew who would hire Germans when he could give them work,” Gibgot said.
Frankl wrote the book in a nine-day torrent shortly after he was liberated from the camps. “He believed in humanity, and was a beacon of forgiveness and humanism as much as Martin Luther King was for civil rights,” Gibgot said. “He would spend his evenings in the camps conducting therapy sessions for the people most likely to take their own lives, who saw no hope in living. He saved the lives of many, and would not allow himself to give in to despair. The movie is about the best and worst of humanity, but how out of the worst the best can emerge.”
Fuego Films’ first film is Hands Of Stone, the Roberto Duran film that stars Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez and Usher. Weisleder produced and Silverman exec produced and the film was acquired at Cannes by The Weinstein Company.