Marc Webb will direct and Nick Hornby is scripting This Above All, based on the true-life story of Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church whose grandfather founded the group known for its hate speak and vicious protests. The film is being adapted from an article written by Adrian Chen for Condé Nast’s The New Yorker and from Phelps-Roper’s soon-to-be-published memoir.
The story follows Phelps-Roper’s upbringing around Topeka, KS, where the Westboro Baptist Church preached God’s power and damned those who sinned. The church has a long history of picketing the funerals of gay murder victims, those who died of AIDS, our fallen military, the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and victims of mass shootings — including Aurora, CO, where thousands showed up to block them, and in Orlando, where a wall of people worked hard to block church signs from the sight lines of grieving mothers burying their children last year.
Phelps-Roper started protesting at age 5 with her mom and she protested for 20 years. She became one of the most powerful voices on social media for Westboro, where she used both a picket sign and her Twitter handle to doggedly protest everything from cultural events to funerals, until her ongoing conversations with opponents over Twitter led her to question her belief system.
Her life, she said in a TED Talk this year, “was framed as an epic spiritual battle between good and evil. The good was my church, and its members and the evil was everyone else.”
With her mind open to a different way of seeing the world, she and her younger sister made the difficult decision to leave the church — and be disowned by their family — in order to find a life governed by love. They moved to Los Angeles and found a Hasidic Jewish family who embraced them fully and started them on their way to inclusiveness, empathy, humanity and love.
Producing will be Dawn Ostroff and Jeremy Steckler of Condé Nast Entertainment, Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea for Made Up Stories, Webb, and River Road Entertainment’s Bill Pohlad. River Road will finance.
Said Hornby, “I’m looking forward to working with the brilliant Marc Webb, CNÉ and with my friends Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea and River Road, with whom I enjoyed such a good relationship during the making of Wild.”
We’re told that the book by Phelps-Roper will be published at a yet-to-be-determined date by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The deal was negotiated by Christa Zofcin Workman for River Road with CAA repping CNÉ, Phelps-Roper, Witherspoon, Papandrea and Webb. Hornby is repped by Casarotto Ramsay & Associates Ltd. Phelps-Roper is also represented by Melissa Flashman at Janklow & Nesbit Associates.
Here is her incredible TED Talk: