EXCLUSIVE: A Million Little Pieces, the screen adaptation of the James Frey book, is fast assembling for a January 25 production start. Billy Bob Thornton has joined Aaron Taylor-Johnson and director Sam Taylor-Johnson for the first film to go into production for Brad Weston’s producing/financing company Makeready. Thornton will be joined by Carla Juri, who emerges from Blade Runner 2049 to play the female lead, and Charlie Hunnam. Giovanni Ribisi was already set. Makeready’s Pam Abdy is producing with The Picture Company partners Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman.
Thornton plays the role of Leonard, whom fans of Frey’s book will recall as a mysterious tough guy who became the guardian angel at a rehab facility for the protagonist, who tried to end his addiction problems before they killed him. Frey later wrote Leonard’s life story in a followup book.
Both Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Sam Taylor-Johnson adapted the book that Frey loosely based on his life. Makeready will fully finance the film with Entertainment One (eOne) distributing in their footprint. Sierra/Affinity is handling international sales and plans to take the project to Berlin.
This is the first one out of the gate for Weston, who formed the company after leaving New Regency following a memorable stint there. Challenged by Arnon Milchan to restore his company as a filmmaker-driven enterprise, Weston presided over two Best Picture Oscars with 12 Years A Slave and Birdman, and a narrow miss on a third with The Revenant, over a three year period. Makeready is building a slate of talent driven, premium film, TV and digital branded entertainment content projects with backing from lead investor eOne.
In addition to A Million Little Pieces, Makeready has an AMC series based on the Washington Post journo Wesley Lowery’s bestselling book They Can’t Kill Us All that is being adapted and executive produced by LaToya Morgan. There is also Undocumented America, a series that will be adapted by Jonás Cuarón from journalist Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s manuscript.
Thornton is repped by WME and Media Talent Group, Juri by UTA, Independent Talent Group and Anonymous Content, and Hunnam by CAA and Brillstein Entertainment Group.
Frey’s book was once one of Hollywood’s hottest book properties. Frey wrote it based on his own experiences, and embellished them for a narrative arc. He initially expected the book to be published as a novel, but was pressed by his publisher to call it a memoir. He should have fessed up right away when Oprah Winfrey embraced it on her show; Frey showed up for a second appearance, and took a pounding from the talk show host, who was upset to have recommended it strongly to her viewers, and then read revelations that parts of the tale were fiction. The controversy halted the film the first time around. But the book remains an incredible, fast-paced read, and it seems nice that the story of a man at rock bottom who overcomes the demons of addiction for redemption, is finally ready for its close-up on a movie screen.