HBO has greenlighted Gorilla and the Bird, a new limited series from Jean-Marc Vallée, the director/executive producer behind the network’s Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects. Vallée is set to direct and executive produce the project, based on Zack McDermott’s book Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother’s Love. It hails from Vallée’s crazyrose, Channing Tatum’s Free Association and Marc Turtletaub and Peter Saraf’s Big Beach, and will be an HBO-Big Beach co-production.
Written by Demolition scribe Bryan Sipe, who will serve as executive producer/showrunner, Gorilla and the Bird is described as an inspirational tale of a mother’s unconditional love for her bipolar son. It follows Zack (the Gorilla) as he fights to regain his sanity after a devastating psychotic break, turning to the only person who didn’t give up on him – his mother (The Bird). Once a highly successful public defender for The Legal Aid Society of New York, Zach’s sudden illness takes him on a harrowing journey of delusions and antisocial behavior, leading to his eventual arrest and commitment to Bellevue Hospital.
Vallée and Nathan Ross executive produce for crazyrose; Tatum, Reid Carolin and Peter Kiernan executive produce for Free Association; Robin Schwartz, Turtletaub and Saraf executive produce for Big Beach. McDermott serves as co-executive producer.
Gorilla and the Bird reunites Vallée and Sipe who worked together on the 2015 feature Demolition, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, which was directed by Vallée and written by Sipe.
Tatum’s Free Association teamed with Big Beach to option McDermott’s Gorilla and the Bird and tapped Sipe to pen the adaptation at the time of the book’s release. The memoir, published by Little Brown Publishing Company in September 2017, chronicles McDermott’s personal battle with bipolar disorder, which affects nearly 6 million Americans and usually presents itself in patients during their mid-twenties, the same age that it affected McDermott.
Vallée’s involvement likely clinched the order by HBO. The Canadian director, producer, and editor has been instrumental in the success of two previous limited series for the premium network based on books, the first season of Big Little Lies, which started as a longform project, and the Amy Adams starrer Sharp Objects. He executive produced and directed all episodes of both, winning two Emmy Awards for BLL. Vallée and Ross formed their production company, crazyrose, and have been in development on a film on John Lennon and Yoko Ono for Universal.
The deal was negotiated by Endeavor Content and by Jackie Eckhouse Lawco on behalf of Big Beach. Vallée and Ross are repped by attorney David Weber. Sipe is repped by UTA, Circle of Confusion and Morris, Yorn & Barnes. McDermott is repped by UTA on behalf of Farley Chase at Chase Literary Agency. Free Association, Tatum and Carolin are repped by UTA, Management 360 and Hansen, Jacobson & Teller.