EXCLUSIVE: Steve Coogan is set to star in The Penguin Lessons, with The Full Monty’s Peter Cattaneo to direct the Jeff Pope-scripted adaptation of the Tom Michell nonfiction bestseller.
The management/production company 42 partners Rory Aitken and Ben Pugh will produce alongside Robert Walak. Rocket Science is handling international sales and will introduce the film at the European Film Market, with CAA Media Finance repping U.S. distribution rights.
The Penguin Lessons is the true story of a disillusioned Englishman who went to work in a school in Argentina in 1976. Expecting an easy ride, he discovered instead a complicated and divided nation – and a class of practically unteachable young boys. When he finds a small penguin washed up on an oil-slicked beach, his life is turned upside down – and the penguin becomes not only a valued friend, but also a teacher of life’s most important lessons, for Tom, the boys and many others.
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“We were captivated by the true story of the unlikely bond between a man and a penguin from the moment we read Tom Michell’s book,” said 42 partners Aitken and Pugh. “Jeff Pope, the master of true story adaptation for the screen, has written an enchanting screenplay, with a backdrop of political upheaval and strife which Tom must navigate with his feathered companion. We couldn’t imagine anyone better to take on the lead role than Steve Coogan, one of the greatest actors working today, and of course the brilliant Oscar-nominated director Peter Cattaneo with whom we’re thrilled to be working again.”
Cattaneo said he sparked to the tale’s “visceral setting of the political strife of late-’70s Argentina and a man’s unexpected bond with a penguin at its heart.”
Coogan and longtime collaborator Pope previously teamed on the Stephen Frears-directed Philomena and then The Lost King and To Catch a King. Coogan said he was “delighted to be working with Jeff, Pete and 42 on a story about fascism, love and penguins!”
Coogan recently played serial sex offender Jimmy Savile in controversial BBC One drama The Reckoning and can next be heard in Despicable Me 4 for Universal. Aside from The Full Monty, Cattaneo’s films include Opal Dream, The Rocker and Bleecker Street’s Military Wives starring Sharon Horgan and Kristin Scott Thomas. In television, Cattaneo directed Anna Paquin in the Amazon Original Flack, Magpie Murders starring Lesley Manville, and the Paramount+ series The Flatshare, the latter produced by 42.
Rocket Science adds to an EFM slate that includes Alex Winter’s The Adults starring Evan Rachel Wood, Josh Gad and Anthony Carrigan; Conor McPherson’s Girl From the North Country starring Chlöe Bailey, Tosin Cole, Olivia Colman and Woody Harrelson; Michael Gracey’s Better Man; and Peter Farrelley’s Ricky Stanicky starring Zac Efron and John Cena which Amazon Prime recently acquired.
Coogan is repped by CAA and Independent Talent Group. Cattaneo is repped by UTA and 42. Pope is repped by WME and United Agents.
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