EXCLUSIVE: Becca Thomas and Jessica Caldwell are adapting Cheryl Della Pietra’s book Gonzo Girl, inspired by the author’s crazy experiences while working with the late journalist and novelist Hunter S. Thompson. Thomas is set to direct and Oliva Cooke, who just completed a turn in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One at Warner Bros., is attached to star. The film will be produced by Tom Heller and Frank Hall Green under their Catch & Release Films banner.
Thomas and Caldwell collaborated previously on Electrick Children. She is also attached to direct The Little Mermaid at Working Title.
Simon & Schuster’s logline for the book is pretty darn funny. It reads: “Alley Russo is a recent college grad desperately trying to make it in the grueling world of New York publishing, but like so many who have come before her, she has no connections and has settled for an unpaid magazine internship while slinging drinks on Bleecker Street just to make ends meet. That’s when she hears the infamous Walker Reade is looking for an assistant to replace the eight others who have recently quit. Hungry for a chance to get her manuscript onto the desk of an experienced editor, Alley jumps at the opportunity to help Reade finish his latest novel.
“After surviving an absurd three-day “trial period” involving a .44 magnum, purple-pyramid acid, violent verbal outbursts, brushes with fame and the law, a bevy of peacocks, and a whole lot of cocaine, Alley is invited to stay at the compound where Reade works. For months Alley attempts to coax the novel out of Walker page-by-page, all while battling his endless procrastination, vampiric schedule, Herculean substance abuse, mounting debt, and casual gun play. But as the job begins to take a toll on her psyche, Alley realizes she’s alone in the Colorado Rockies at the mercy of a drug-addicted literary icon who may never produce another novel—and her fate may already be sealed.”
Hunter S. Thompson led a well-known gonzo lifestyle. In his early days as a journalist, he wrote (and very famously so) for Rolling Stone about the 1972 Richard Nixon, George McGovern election and from that developed a well-known loathing of Nixon. His The Rum Diary and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas were both made into films. He once accidentally shot his assistant while firing warning shots to scare off a bear.
He also wrote one of the best letters I’ve ever seen to a studio executive when trying to get the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas up and running, telling her, “We are not even spinning our wheels aggressively.” Thompson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2005.
Heller and Green are also producing A Gathering of Saints: A True Story of Money, Murder and Deceit, which is based on The New York Times’ non-fiction bestseller written by Times reporter Robert Lindsay (author of The Falcon and the Snowman). Heller’s previous credits include Precious, 127 Hours, Foxcatcher, Win-Win, and Mud. Green is a longtime independent film producer, writer and director, whose directorial debut was Wildlike. Green also produced Remittance and the doc Getting Naked: A Burlesque Story, both coming out in 2017.
Thomas is repped by CAA, Circle of Confusion and attorney Bruce Gellman at Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush, Kaller & Gellman LLP.
Caldwell is repped by CAA, Circle of Confusion, and attorney Josh Sandler at Gray Krauss Stratford Des Rochers LLP.
Cooke is repped by CAA, Grandview, Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush, Kaller & Gellman LLP.
Author Della Pietra was represented in the deal by Paradigm on behalf of Gary Morris of the David Black Agency.