EXCLUSIVE: HBO is developing a series adaptation of nonfiction book Empty Mansions, about a wealthy recluse.
The Warner Bros. Discovery-owned premium network is working on the project with The Ticket filmmaker Ido Fluk, Atonement and Darkest Hour director Joe Wright and The Mosquito Coast producer Fremantle.
The story follows Huguette Clark, an elderly, fabulously wealthy recluse who is hospitalized for a number of seemingly minor ailments and a series of events is set into motion regarding her fortune and an unsigned will.
Fluk will write and exec produce, Wright will direct the potential pilot and exec produce alongside Fremantle.
At the RTL-owned producer and distributor, the project comes from Dante Di Loreto, President of Scripted Programming in the U.S. Di Loreto, in fact, previously worked closely with Ryan Murphy, exec producing series including Glee and American Horror Story. Murphy had optioned the book back in 2014, a year after it was published.
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune was written by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.
It started when Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale, unoccupied for nearly 60 years, and he subsequently stumbled through a surprising portal into American history.
Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of the 19th century with a 21st century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is the reclusive heiress Clark, a woman so secretive that, at the time of her death at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen in decades. Although she owned palatial homes in California, New York and Connecticut, why had she lived for 20 years in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health? Why were her valuables being sold off? Was she in control of her fortune, or controlled by those managing her money?
Dedman collaborated with Clark’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell Jr., one of the few relatives to have frequent conversations with her. Dedman and Newell tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter, born into a family of extreme wealth and privilege, who secrets herself away from the outside world.
Huguette was the daughter of self-made copper industrialist W.A. Clark, nearly as rich as Rockefeller in his day, a controversial senator, railroad builder and founder of Las Vegas. She grew up in the largest house in New York City, a remarkable dwelling with 121 rooms for a family of four. She owned paintings by Degas and Renoir, a world-renowned Stradivarius violin, a vast collection of antique dolls. But wanting more than treasures, she devoted her wealth to buying gifts for friends and strangers alike, to quietly pursuing her own work as an artist and to guarding the privacy she valued above all else.
The Clark family story spans nearly all of American history in three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, from backdoor politics in Washington to a distress call from an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment. The same Huguette who was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11 held a ticket nine decades earlier for a first-class stateroom on the second voyage of Titanic.
Empty Mansions reveals a complex portrait of the mysterious Huguette and her intimate circle. Readers meet her extravagant father, her publicity-shy mother, her star-crossed sister, her French boyfriend, her nurse who received more than $30 million in gifts and the relatives fighting to inherit Huguette’s copper fortune.
Fluk is in pre-production on the feature film Köln 75, produced by Sol Bondy, Oren Moverman and Ewa Puszczyńska; wrote the feature Ivy Bells for producer Michael Maher; and is writing and directing 24 Hours in June, with James Schamus producing.
Wright also is behind films including The Woman in the Window and Cyrano. He is also working with Fremantle production company The Apartment Pictures on a series based on Mussolini story M. Son of the Century.
Fluk is represented by Echo Lake Entertainment and attorney Rob Marcus, Wright is represented by CAA, and Bill Dedman and the estate of Paul Clark Newell Jr. are represented by CAA and Michael V. Carlisle of InkWell Management.
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