EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Studios is in early talks with director Alexander Payne to come aboard and helm The Burial. Scripted by Doug Wright, the drama is based on the true legal exploits of Willie Gary, a successful personal-injury lawyer from Mississippi. He takes on the case of Jeremiah O’Keefe, the owner of a local chain of funeral homes who claimed he had been swindled by a major funeral parlor conglomerate. The rags-to-riches lawyer turns it into a David vs. Goliath morality play.
Gary is a flamboyant lawyer, the son of poor black migrant workers who became known as “The Giant Killer,” and here he won a $500 million judgment (later reduced to $200 million) for a small funeral home owner against a conglomerate in 1995. Bobby Shriver, Jenette Kahn and Adam Richman are the producers. The project was originally developed at Warner Bros.
Payne is coming off a rare misfire in Downsizing, but the two-time Oscar winner fits Amazon Studios’ ambition to elevate its filmmaker-driven fare. Last nominated for Best Director on Nebraska, Payne was nominated for Best Director and won for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants in 2012. Amazon would not comment.
Payne is repped by CAA. Wright is ICM Partners.