Amazon has put into development Mercury 13, based on Martha Ackmann’s book The Mercury 13: The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight, as an event miniseries, I have learned. The project hails from Bradley Whitford, Adena Chawke, Amy Pascal’s Pascal Pictures, and Tim and Trevor White’s Star Thrower Entertainment.
Written by Liz Hannah (The Post), who also will serve as showrunner and executive producer, Mercury 13 is set in 1961. Just as NASA launched its first man into space, a group of women underwent secret testing in the hope of becoming America’s first female astronauts. They passed the same battery of tests at the legendary Lovelace Foundation as did the Mercury 7 astronauts, but they summarily were dismissed by the boys club at NASA and on Capitol Hill. The USSR sent its first woman into space in 1963; the United States did not follow suit for another 20 years.
Mercury 13 reunites Hannah, Pascal, Whitford and the White brothers – all of whom worked together on The Post starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, the story of Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of The Washington Post, and editor Ben Bradlee. The 20th Century Fox movie comes out December 22.
Pascal executive produces Mercury 13 with Star Thrower’s Trevor and Tim White, along with Whitford and manager Chawke of Greenlight Management. Allan Mandelbaum is co-executive producer alongside consulting producer P.J. Roth.
Emmy-winning actor Whitford optioned the book by Ackmann with Chawke, and the two have been developing the project for years.
“I am thrilled that this team will be producing this important American Story,” said Ackmann. “Their persistence and passion for the project truly honors the spirit of the splendid women who made up the team of the Mercury 13.”
The project joins Mercury 13 (working title), another event series project about the same group of female astronauts in the works at ITV Studios America, written and executive produced by Todd Komarnicki and executive produced by Jessica Chastain and Christina Wayne.
Journalist and author Ackmann writes about women who have changed America. Her next book Vesuvius at Home: Ten Days in the Life, Loves and Mystery of Emily Dickinson, will be published by W.W. Norton in 2018. Ackmann is also the author of Curveball, which recounts the life of Toni Stone, baseball’s female Jackie Robinson. The book has been adapted as a play by Lydia R. Diamond with Tony-winning director Pam MacKinnon attached, and is in development with the Roundabout Theatre Company in association with Frozen Rope Productions.
Hannah’s script for The Post was tied for second on the 2016 Black List before being purchased by Pascal Pictures. Currently, Hannah is developing a female anthology series for Universal Cable Prods and a feature script Only Plane in the Sky for MGM, which was adapted from the Politico article by Garrett Graff. She’s repped by UTA, Echo Lake and Jackoway Tyerman.
In addition to The Post, Pascal Pictures’ upcoming films include Molly’s Game, directed by Aaron Sorkin and starring Jessica Chastain; an animated Spider-Man film to be released in 2018; an adaptation of the thriller novel Maestra by S.L. Knight; and a film adaptation of David Lagercrantz’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a sequel to Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. On the TV side, the company will produce Darktown with Sony TV and a series based on Eve Babitz’s memoirs with TriStar Television.
The deal was brokered by Wendy Kirk at Ziffren Brittenham, and ICM Partners.
Ackmann is repped by Mary Alice Kier and Anna Cottle of Cine/Lit Representation on behalf of Ellen Geiger of the Frances Goldin Literary Agency.