EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures has acquired the inspirational book The Day Donny Herbert Woke Up, and set Eddie The Eagle scribe Sean Macaulay to adapt it. Kevin Misher is producing through his Misher Films banner. It is another title with faith-based appeal for Sony, which turned Heaven Is For Real, War Room, Miracles From Heaven, Soul Surfer, Risen and Courageous into hits.
Rich Blake’s nonfiction 2008 book is the true story about a 34-year-old Buffalo, NY, firefighter who rushed into a burning apartment building, searching the attic for victims. The roof collapsed and he was trapped for six minutes without oxygen before his fellow firefighters were able to free him. He survived but only in a non-responsive state. His wife Linda never gave up searching for a cure even as medical experts ruled out any chance of a recovery. She raised their four sons. Doctors tried a drug that would normally treat attention deficit or Parkinson’s disease, and nine years after he fell into a vegetative state, Donny Herbert awoke. He spent the day reuniting his children and his wife. It was short-lived: After 15 hours, he became unresponsive again, and died a year later.
His family considered it a miracle and his name is still on the side of Buffalo’s Rescue One, where he served that night when the roof collapsed on top of him. The story made headlines around the world and two of his sons followed their father’s calling and became firefighters. Macaulay, a journalist and former columnist for the London Times, said: “Rich Blake’s book is one of those unique true life tales that keeps you reading till two in the morning. It’s such a powerful family story about faith and loss and perseverance – and miraculous second chances. It’s an honor to get the chance to tell the Herberts’ story for the big screen.”
Eric Fineman will oversee for Sony, and Andy Berman is exec producer along with Leslie Conliffe. Conliffe and Joel Gotler at Intellectual Property Group brokered the deal for Macaulay, Blake and the Herbert Family. Attorneys Karl Austen and Andrew S. Howard also rep Macaulay.