National Geographic has inked a development deal with Appian Way Productions and Warner Horizon Scripted Television for a series adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s best-selling nonfiction book The Right Stuff. The scripted project is executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson, with Will Staples (Call of Duty) serving as writer and executive producer.
The Right Stuff takes a gritty, anti-nostalgic look at what would become America’s first reality show as the obsessive original Mercury Seven astronauts and their families become instant celebrities in a competition that will either kill them or make them immortal. The one-hour drama will follow the protagonists from the Mojave Desert to the edges of space, with future seasons carrying through to humankind’s greatest achievement: the moon landing.
The series will use the book as a starting point, featuring a mission for each season, with Season 1 beginning at the height of the Cold War in 1958. A handful of adrenaline-junkie test pilots are living in the Mojave Desert, risking their lives daily to become the fastest pilots on Earth. Meanwhile, America is against the ropes as the Soviets dominate the space race: They’ve not only beat us to put a satellite in orbit, but there is an ever-growing fear they can drop nuclear weapons from above. With the public wondering if we are a nation in decline, the U.S. government conceives the Mercury Program, America’s attempt to beat the Soviets and put the first person in space. Now they need to find the perfect team — seven heroes willing to risk almost certain death to achieve international fame and reclaim the ultimate high ground, outer space.
This project marks the second collaboration between National Geographic and Appian Way following the release last fall of the critically praised and highly rated climate-change documentary Before the Flood.
“Having already had a rich relationship with Leonardo, Jennifer and their production company Appian Way on Before the Flood, I’m excited to work with them in a scripted capacity,” said Courteney Monroe, CEO of National Geographic Global Networks. “With The Right Stuff, we’re looking at moment in time where the everyday life, the trials and tribulations, of these men was scrutinized in the public.”
Staples recently developed Animals with Appian Way Productions, an Africa-set thriller for Ben Affleck, and Dark Web for Chernin Entertainment. In 2015 he completed additional production work on the recent Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
“National Geographic gave Before the Flood an international platform, and we couldn’t think of a better partner to bring The Right Stuff to the world,” added Davisson. “The heroism of these astronauts was rivaled only by the country’s fascination with their story; this series uncovers both the adventure of space exploration and the adventure of being unwittingly thrust into the public eye.”
Michael Hampton of Appian Way shepherded this project. Tom Wolfe is repped by Bob Bookman. DiCaprio and Appian Way are repped by LBI Entertainment.