EXCLUSIVE: After bringing the story of World War II conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss to the big screen with Hacksaw Ridge, the Oscar-nominated producer of that film, David Permut, is in development on another feature project about a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient — that of Civil War Union Army surgeon Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. Permut is teaming with Walden Media on the feature, which is being adapted by Rosalind Ross.
The project follows Walker’s journey during the Civil War as she struggled to be accepted and compensated in the same manner as her male counterparts in the medical field and ultimately became the first and only female recipient to receive the Congressional Medal Of Honor. Even after receiving her medical degree at Syracuse Medical College, Walker was considered unfit for the Union Army Examining Board and initially was only allowed to serve voluntarily as a surgeon.
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While serving in the war, Dr. Walker was captured by Confederate soldiers after boldly crossing enemy lines to treat wounded civilians and was arrested as a spy – eventually being released in a prisoner exchange.
Walker’s story brings Permut back together with Walden Media, the studio that originally was involved on the development of Hacksaw Ridge. That pic grossed more than $175 million at the global box office and was nominated for six Oscars including for Best Picture and Best Director for Mel Gibson, and won two. Walden Media didn’t proceed with Hacksaw Ridge given the R-rated nature of the project, and their commitment to family fare. Still, credit is owed to the studio with the initial development of that project. Naia Cucukov will be overseeing the Walker project for Walden Media.
Ross will adapt the screenplay from the book A Woman of Honor: Dr. Mary E. Walker and the Civil War written by Mercedes Graf. The stage play Independence: The True Story of Dr. Mary Walker written by Lloyd J. Schwartz was also acquired.
“Dr. Walker’s arduous journey to be recognized as an equal in her field of medicine, let alone be allowed to practice, and her pioneering fight for equality is historic, cinematic and certainly prescient,” Permut told Deadline.
The project will also be produced by Jimmy Hawkins, with whom Permut had worked previously on Love Leads the Way, which had the distinction of being the first Disney Channel Original film. “I’m extremely proud in bringing a forgotten hero’s inspirational story to the screen with Walden, Rosey, and Jimmy,” added Permut.
In addition to Hacksaw Ridge, the Sundance Film Festival premiere comedy The Polka King was another Permut Presentation based on a true story, acquired by Netflix out of the festival. Additionally, Permut is currently working on a documentary that follows the creation of the nightclub Chippendales, which will serve as a companion piece for the feature film starring Dev Patel that is set to go into production early next year.
It was also recently announced that Paramount will be rebooting the classic 1997 action feature Face/Off which Permut will be executive producing.
Walden Media is coming off the heels of Dora and the Lost City of Gold, which has grossed $90 million-plus worldwide. Past Walden blockbusters include: The Chronicles of Narnia franchise, the Journey to the Center of the Earth and Charlotte’s Web. Walden is also co-producing and co-financing the November 8 Paramount film Playing With Fire.
Ross is repped at WME and managed by Markus Georg at Heroes and Villains Entertainment.
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