Fox Axes ‘American Heiress’ Movie After Patricia Hearst Blasted The Project

By Erik Pedersen, Greg Evans

20th Century Fox

Twentieth Century Fox Film said late this afternoon that it is canceling Fox 2000’s planned James Mangold-directed biopic about Patricia Hearst after Hearst herself publicly denounced the project and its source book today.

The remarkable development comes hours after Hearst issued a damning statement about the project, the Jeffrey Toobin book, American Heiress, on which it’s based, and the upcoming CNN docuseries The Radical Story of Patty Hearst on which Toobin is an executive producer.

“Twentieth Century Fox Film and its production partners have decided to cancel the studio’s planned project based on the book American Heiress,” a Twentieth Century Fox Film spokesperson said.

In a lengthy statement released today, the heiress, whose kidnapping and rape by members of the self-styled radical terrorist group the Symbionese Liberation Army was one of the major news story of the 1970s, said the upcoming film and TV projects based on her ordeal would “perpetuate a one-sided dialogue romanticizing my torture and rape.”

She was especially disdainful of Toobin’s book, American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst. 

The Hearst saga was closely followed by a fascinated public in 1974: After her abduction, she emerged the following year under the name Tania to take part in a bank robbery dressed in SLA pseudo-military garb, dividing the public on whether she had joined the group voluntarily or had been brainwashed in some way – this even before the true story came out of her harrowing ordeal of being locked in a dark closet, beaten and repeatedly raped.


She eventually served 22 months of a seven year prison sentence for the bank robbery, her sentence commuted by President Jimmy Carter. Grainy security footage photos of Hearst’s during the robbery became iconic images and dorm-room posters of the 1970s, launching a public and pop culture fascination with her story that continues to this day.

Hearst said today that she was inspired to speak out about the upcoming projects after watching the MeToo and Time’s Up movement at the recent Golden Globe Awards ceremony.

“I am further saddened and appalled that Fox 2000 agreed to finance and produce a movie based on Toobin’s book (with a similarly themed screenplay, also written by men) and that CNN has agreed to continue to perpetuate a one-sided dialogue romanticizing my torture and rape by hosting a podcast and docuseries through Toobin’s distorted lens,” read part of Hearst’s statement today.

Read her full statement here.

The untitled, now-axed James Mangold-directed film, based on Toobin’s book, was to have starred Elle Fanning and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.

The CNN original series, The Radical Story of Patty Hearst, is set to debut Sunday, Feb. 11 with two back-to-back episodes at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET/PT. According to CNN, the six-part docuseries “follows the transformation of Patty Hearst from heiress to terrorist in a saga of privilege, celebrity, politics, media, revolution, and violence. Over 40 years later, newly discovered evidence, archival footage, cinematic recreations and exclusive firsthand accounts shed light on one of the biggest and most bizarre stories in modern American history.”

The docuseries, CNN has said, includes unprecedented access to key figures in the story including Bill Harris, the man that abducted Hearst from her apartment in 1974 and Steven Weed, the fiancé who witnessed it all: “The series weaves through her upbringing, kidnapping, transformation into a terrorist, subsequent arrest and trial, and her transition back into American royalty.”

In addition to the series, CNN is planning a weekly podcast, “Patty Has a Gun: The Life and Crimes of Patricia Hearst,” co-hosted by Toobin and CNN’s Brian Stelter, available beginning Friday, Jan. 26 on iTunes.

CNN has not yet commented on Hearst’s statement.

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