Watergate drama Gaslit, which is based on Slate’s Slow Burn podcast, has landed at Starz, though it has lost a couple of names along the way.
The network has greenlighted the UCP-produced series starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn. Joel Edgerton, who was set to star and direct, no longer is attached, and neither is his brother Nash Edgerton.
The pair join Armie Hammer, who was originally attached to the project, but also exited. The project was first unveiled in February 2020. These two roles, Hammer was set to play White House Counsel John Dean and Edgerton was set to play G. Gordon Liddy chief operative of Richard Nixon’s “Plumbers” unit, will now be recast.
Matt Ross, who has directed feature films including Captain Fantastic and 28 Hotel Rooms, now will direct and exec produce. Robbie Pickering, who has worked on series including Mr. Robot and Search Party, remains as showrunner.
Production on the anthology series is set to begin later this spring.
A modern take on Watergate, Gaslit focuses on the untold stories and forgotten characters of the scandal – from Nixon’s bumbling, opportunistic subordinates to the deranged zealots aiding and abetting their crimes to the tragic whistleblowers who eventually would bring the whole rotten enterprise crashing down.
Roberts plays Martha Mitchell, a big personality with an even bigger mouth. Martha is a celebrity Arkansan socialite and wife to Nixon’s loyal attorney general, John Mitchell (played by Penn). Despite her party affiliation, she’s the first person to publicly sound the alarm on Nixon’s involvement in Watergate, causing both the presidency and her personal life to unravel. As Attorney General, Mitchell is Nixon’s most trusted adviser and best friend. Temperamental, foulmouthed and ruthless – yet hopelessly in love with his famously outspoken wife – he’ll be forced to choose between Martha and the president.
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The series reunited Roberts and her Homecoming partner Sam Esmail, who exec produces via his overall deal with UCP. His Esmail Corp colleague Chad Hamilton also exec produces, alongside Pickering, Ross, Roberts, via her Red Om Films banner, and Anonymous Content and Slate’s Gabriel Roth and Josh Levin. Lisa Gillan and Marisa Yeres are co-exec producers, while Leon Neyfakh, who created the podcast, will consult on the project.
Gaslit is created by Robbie Pickering, who writes alongside Amelia Gray, Alberto Roldán, Anayat Fakhraie, Uzoamaka Maduka and Sofya Levitsky-Weitz.
“In Gaslit, we not only have the opportunity to tell an incredible untold story in bringing Martha Mitchell’s historic role in Watergate to the forefront, but we are also incredibly lucky to have a dream cast including Julia and Sean and the best creative team and partners we could have asked for,” said Christina Davis, President of Original Programming for Starz. “We could not be more excited to bring this story to the global Starz audience and continue the network’s commitment to spotlighting premium stories that appeal to women while super serving our core audience.”
Added Pickering: “I’m so happy to have the opportunity to share the heartbreaking, fascinating story of Martha Mitchell with the world. Martha was the first and loudest voice to speak out against the bumbling criminality of a crooked presidential administration, and she was one of the most complicated public martyrs of the era. To find anyone willing to tell her story is a dream. To be making it with Sam, Julia, Sean, Matt, UCP and Starz seems impossible. I’m over the moon.”
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