MGM has set Madonna to direct Taking Flight, a feature film based on the true story of Michaela DePrince, who grew up an orphan in war-torn Sierra Leone but rose to become a world-renowned ballerina. Camilla Blackett (Fresh Off the Boat, New Girl, The Newsroom) will adapt the script from DePrince and her mother Elaine DePrince’s 2014 memoir Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina.
Alloy Entertainment’s Leslie Morgenstein and Elysa Koplovitz Dutton will produce alongside Ben Pugh and Guy Oseary. MGM Motion Picture Group president Jonathan Glickman and executive director of Worldwide Motion Pictures Tabitha Shick are overseeing for the studio.
DePrince’s father was shot and killed by rebels when she was 3 during Sierra Leone’s civil war and her mother died of fever and starvation a week later. She also had three brothers who died young. Her uncle sent her to an orphanage, and she was eventually adopted by a U.S. family (the eighth of 11 children — nine adopted), who recognized her talents and encouraged her to pursue ballet. She graduated from New York’s American Ballet Theatre and made her professional debut at age 17 in the Joburg Ballet in South Africa, was featured in the 2012 ballet documentary First Position, appeared in Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” and, now in her 20s, is a soloist at the Dutch National Ballet.
The memoir, written with her mother, hit shelves in 2014 from Knopf.
“Michaela’s journey resonated with me deeply as both an artist and an activist who understands adversity,” said Madonna, who has adopted four children from Malawi and founded the children’s nonprofit Raising Malawi in 2006. “We have a unique opportunity to shed light on Sierra Leone and let Michaela be the voice for all the orphaned children she grew up beside. I am honored to bring her story to life.”
It will be Madonna’s third directorial effort, after 2008’s comedy Filth and Wisdom and 2011’s W.E. She is currently co-writing to direct The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, based on Andrew Sean Greer’s novel, and she produced and wrote I Am Because We Are, her documentary about Malawi’s more than 1 million orphans in the wake of the AIDS pandemic.
Madonna is repped by CAA and Maverick Management. ICM Partners and Full Circle Literary rep the book.