Shirley Jackson’s Classic Story ‘The Lottery’ Gets First Feature Film Treatment With Kennedy/Marshall At Paramount Pictures

Perfection Learning/Paramount Pictures

EXCLUSIVE: It was an explosive and controversial story when it was published in 1948 and still remains so to this day. Shirley Jackson’s classic short story The Lottery, which centers on violence, inhumanity and judgment in a small New England town, is being adapted — for the first time — as a feature film by a producing team led by Kennedy/Marshall at Paramount Pictures. Jake Wade Wall (The Hitcher) is writing the screenplay and author Jackson’s son Laurence Hyman (who runs the estate) is an executive producer on the project.

Frank Marshall, a veteran filmmaker who has, in recent years, produced such features as Jurassic Park: Fallen KingdomJason Bourne and Sully, will produce along with Zero Gravity’s Christine Holder, Andrew Wilson and Mark Holder. Andy Raymer is the exec for the project at Kennedy/Marshall and Liz Raposo and Jon Gonda are sheparding the development at Paramount.

“I liked what Jake was doing in developing it and bringing up to the present day. It’s has a dystopian, Handmaid’s Tale feel about it, which makes it very timely,” Marshall told Deadline. “And, it has a great twist at the end.”

The Lottery first appeared as a short story in the pages of The New Yorker and instantly became controversial as the story slowly unfolded revealing a town tradition and superstition to help ensure a good farming season. It has the towns folk picking up a piece of paper out of a weathered box. It’s a tradition that has gone on for decades, as one man says, it was his 77th time. When one family picks a piece of paper and ends up “marked,” despite protests from the desperate mother, they continue to chose again within the family until a black spot appears on the piece of paper. It’s only until the mother’s panic, does the reader know something isn’t right.

Rather then receiving a prize, the person with the spot is marked for something, but what it is is not clear until the very end of the story. The reader is thrown from hope to disbelief in a matter of only about eight pages. The black spot ends up with the protesting mother. The last scene of the story has everyone, even children, picking up rocks to, shockingly, stone the mother to death.

The story explores themes of mob mentality, the lack of courage to speak up to stop what is clearly an illogical and unjust system and never questioning tradition. Some critics, at the time, called it satire. Others called it gruesome and outrageous. Regardless, the narrative is a slow build from what seems to be a nice gathering in a village of about 300 to a harrowing story of dread, panic and disbelief.

The Lottery has been adapted many times, first in 1951 for radio and subsequently for stage, and most recently, in 1996 in an NBC telefilm which starred Keri Russell.

Wade Wall is repped at APA and Zero Gravity while Murray Weiss repped the Shirley Jackson Estate in the deal.

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