Catherine Keener has signed on to play the lead in Little Pink House, the story behind the infamous 2005 Kelo v. City of New London Supreme Court decision. Based on Jeff Benedict’s nonfiction book of the same name, Keener will play Susette Kelo, the Connecticut nurse who found herself at the center of a political firestorm when the city of New London, Connecticut used the power of eminent domain to claim ownership of the working class Fort Trumbull neighborhood so that a proposed “Urban Village” could be built for the benefit of a Pfizer research facility under development nearby.
Setting extremely generous terms (including rent of just $1 per year) for the proposed development, the city justified the seizure by arguing that hypothetical benefits such as increased tax revenues qualified as “public good” under the fifth amendment. As the residents waged a five-year court battle to stop the takings, Kelo’s renovated pink house became the symbol of the fight, and her name was attached to the case.
Little Pink House will focus on Kelo’s personal journey, from her purchase and renovation of the house, to her becoming the reluctant leader of her neighborhood’s efforts to keep their homes, as well as her conflict with the wealthy fellow New London Citizen who spearheaded the efforts to seize the neighborhood. As the case winds through the court system, Kelo faces personal adversity as more than just her home is placed in jeopardy.
New London ultimately won by a highly criticized 5-4 Supreme Court decision, but the case was a public image disaster for the town. First, the city tried to bill Fort Trumbull residents tens of thousands in back rent from the 5-year legal battle, forcing the state governor to intervene. Later, the redeveloper contracted to build the urban village was never able to obtain funding, and the project was abandoned. Finally, in 2010 Pfizer closed the research facility, taking with it 1,500 jobs. Today, the lot remains vacant – New London spent over $80 million defending the fiasco.
From Korchula Productions, Little Pink House is written and to be directed by Courtney Moorehead Balaker. Shawn Williamson’s Brightlight Pictures will co-produce the film, with additional casting of other key roles, including Kelo’s rival Charlotte Wells and love interest Tim LeBlanc, to be announced shortly. It will be produced by Korchula’s Courtney Moorehead Balaker and Ted Balaker, and Joel Soisson, executive produced by Shawn Williamson, and co-produced by Arielle Boisvert. Cinematography is by Alexandre Lehmann, and casting by Monika Mikkelsen and Nicole Arbusto. Principal photography begins later this week in Vancouver.
Keener is repped by The Gersh Agency. She can currently be seen in HBO’s Show Me a Hero, alongside Oscar Isaacs, and has Sacha Gervasi’s November Criminals with Chloë Grace Moretz and Ansel Elgort coming from Sony Pictures in 2016. She recently appeared in Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini.