EXCLUSIVE: Naomi Watts is teaming with Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea to produce a movie based on the top selling Australian book Penguin Bloom. They’ve optioned the book to produce, with Watts set to star. The trio will produce along with Aussie-based producer Emma Cooper.

Set on Sydney’s northern beaches, Penguin Bloom is the true story of a unique little bird that saves a family. The book is written by Bradley Trevor Greive, with photographs by Cameron Bloom. Cameron and Sam Bloom and their three boys were an everyday family until a shocking, near-fatal accident left Sam paralyzed. She fell from a balcony while on holiday in Thailand, and was left paralyzed from the chest down. As the family struggled to adjust to her new situation, an unlikely ally entered their lives in the form of an injured Magpie chick which the Bloom clan called Penguin. The wild bird became a mascot for the family.


Watts was captivated by the life-affirming nature of Sam’s story. “Sam’s undeniable spirit and the intense physical and emotional journey she and her family embraced resonated with me both as a storyteller and as a mother,” she said. Papandrea had a similar reaction. “Every family will respond to this universal and heartwarming story of a family dealing with tragedy,” she said. The book’s subjects hope the movie will create awareness and financial support for the spinal cord injury research being undertaken by SpinalCure Australia, Wings for Life, and The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

AP Images)

The film will shoot in Australia, and they will now look for a screenwriter and director. Watts will next be seen starring for Colin Trevorrow in The Book Of Henry, and the Destin Daniel Cretton-directed The Glass Castle opposite Brie Larson. She also stars in the Netflix psychological thriller Gypsy. Witherspoon and Papandrea have together produced Wild, Gone Girl and Hot Pursuit and are teamed on Luckiest Girl Alive at Lionsgate and Ashley’s War at Fox 2000.

Atria Books will publish the book April 4 in the U.S. and Canada under the title Penguin The Magpie, with 10% of royalties going to those spinal cure charities.