EXCLUSIVE: Oscar and Emmy winner Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell, American Horror Story), two-time Oscar nominee and Emmy winner John Malkovich (Space Force, The New Pope) and Lewis Pullman (Top Gun: Maverick, Pink Skies Ahead) have signed on to star in Thelma, an indie directed by two-time Emmy nom Ken Kwapis (#BlackAF, The Office).
Thelma recounts the true story of the mother of John Kennedy Toole (Pullman), the Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Confederacy of Dunces. Toole died by suicide before finding a home for his masterpiece, and his mother Thelma (Bates) made it her life’s mission, through outrageous gamesmanship, to see the book published. She eventually succeeded in getting the manuscript into the hands of writer Walker Percy (Malkovich), who became the novel’s champion. It would be published in 1980, eleven years after Ken’s death, thereafter becoming a widely celebrated cult classic.
Black List screenwriter Andrew Farotte penned the original screenplay. Steven P. Wegner (Blade Runner 2049, The Blind Side) and Filmula’s Johnny Lin (American Made, Bernie) are producing the pic, with Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee handling casting.
“Thelma Toole is one of the most audacious characters I’ve ever encountered, and I can imagine no one better to bring her tenacity to life than Kathy Bates,” said Kwapis. “With rising star Lewis Pullman in the role of her gifted, if doomed, son and John Malkovich playing literary legend Walker Percy, I feel we’re putting together a real confederacy of brilliance.”
“We are thrilled that Kathy and John will be starring in the story of a fantastical woman who will stop at nothing to ensure the legacy of her talented son,” added Lin. “Aging and guilt-ridden, Thelma dedicates her life to finding a publisher in the hopes of redeeming herself and her son. Andrew Farotte has done a remarkable job of capturing Thelma’s life and pursuits, and we look forward to bringing this story to the masses.”
Bates landed her fourth Oscar nomination in 2020 for her turn in Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell. The actress nabbed her 13th Emmy nom in 2016 for the role of Hotel Cortez manager Iris in the fifth season of Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy’s anthology series, American Horror Story, having won an Emmy for her work in the same series two years prior. She will next be seen in Kelly Fremon Craig’s adaptation of Judy Blume’s classic YA novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret for Lionsgate.
Malkovich earned his Oscar noms for the films In the Line of Fire and Places in the Heart, winning an Emmy back in 1986 for his portrayal of Biff Loman in a CBS adaptation of Arthur Miller’s classic play, Death of a Salesman. The actor has recently appeared on the TV side in Steve Carell and Greg Daniels’ Netflix comedy Space Force and Paolo Sorrentino’s The New Pope. He’ll next be seen in a pair of thrillers: Luis Prieto’s Shattered and Randall Emmett’s Wash Me in the River.
Pullman will next be seen in the Amazon series Outer Range opposite Josh Brolin, Lili Taylor and Tom Pelphrey; Paramount’s anticipated Top Gun: Maverick opposite Tom Cruise; and as author Ben Mears in New Line’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel Salem’s Lot. The actor has previousy appeared in films including Pink Skies Ahead, Bad Times at the El Royale, Battle of the Sexes and Lean on Pete, as well as the Hulu series Catch-22.
Kwapis came to exec produce series including Happyish, Outsourced and The Office, after producing both The Bernie Mac Show and Malcolm in the Middle. He has directed features including A Walk in the Woods, He’s Just Not That Into You and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, as well as episodes of such series as #BlackAF, Santa Clarita Diet, The Dangerous Book for Boys, One Mississippi, Happyish, The Office, Parks and Recreation, The Bernie Mac Show, Malcolm in the Middle, Freaks and Geeks and The Larry Sanders Show. He most recently helmed the entire second season of Space Force, which he also exec produces. His memoir But What I Really Want To Do is Direct was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2020.
Farotte is a graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts who spent more than a decade as a producer of non-scripted television. His screenplay Francis & The Godfather was optioned by Echo Lake Entertainment and subsequently included on the 2015 Black List. He was then hired to pen a second screenplay for Echo Lake, as well as a television pilot for Double E Pictures and Freedom Road Entertainment. Farotte has also signed on to script a feature based on the life of public relations pioneer Edward Bernays for Rubicon Entertainment and producer Andrew Garfield.
Wegner is a former longtime Alcon production executive who is currently producing Sony Pictures’ animated reboot of Garfield, starring Chris Pratt.
Lin is the son of legendary producer and Royal Country Club owner Jimmy Lin and the founder of Filmula, the production company, financier, and distributor that has released more than 2,000 films to the pan-Asian market, with exclusive rights to distribute Miramax movies and television shows in Taiwan. He has exec produced titles including American Made and Bernie while producing such films as Hesher and Another Happy Day.
Barden and Schnee’s credits include Spotlight, Dallas Buyers Club, Winter’s Bone, The Help, Stillwater and the Pitch Perfect franchise.
Filmula and Lin are represented by Matthew Wallerstein of Hirsch Wallerstein; Kwapis by UTA and Code Management; Bates by ICM Partners and ID; Malkovich by WME; Pullman by ICM Partners, Anonymous Content and ID; Farotte by Jon Levin of Sustainable Imagination and Jeff Belkin of Zero Gravity Management; and Barden and Schnee by the Michael Moore Agency.
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