EXCLUSIVE: Mark Harmon and his Wings Productions, along with Eric Tannenbaum and the Tannenbaum Company, have optioned the rights to Honor Thy Father, a true-crime tale of murder in a Texas football family that was published by Texas Monthly as a June 1998 feature article.
Angelo Pizzo, who wrote and produced the sports-based classics Hoosiers (1986) and Rudy (1993), is on board to adapt the 7,500-word magazine article to screenplay form. Tannenbaum (The Last O.G., Two and a Half Men) and Harmon (NCIS, The West Wing) will produce alongside Pizzo, with Karen Samfilippo serving as associate producer.
This is a potential starring vehicle for Harmon provided schedule can be carved out of his production commitment to NCIS, the CBS series that launched in 2003 and has featured Harmon in the role of Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs in more than 370 episodes.
Bill Butterfield was described at his son’s trial as frustrated former athlete who obsessively trained his son and abused him psychically and emotionally when the youngster fell short. Harmon was a well-regarded college athlete and famously led the UCLA Bruins to a shocking 1972 upset of the two-time national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers squad in his first game as starting quarterback.
A Texas Monthly synopsis of the article from the time of publication: “Honor Thy Father tells the story of a promising young man, Lance Butterfield, and the volatile relationship with his overbearing father, Bill. They seemed like the perfect family; Bill Butterfield was a former Texas high school football star, renowned for his speed and power. His son Lance, a gifted defensive back, seemed determined to follow in his footsteps. But in Lance’s senior year – his championship season – something went very wrong. This is a story of youth, obedience, trust, insanity, and murder.”
The Texas Monthly article was written by journalist Skip Hollandsworth and detailed the December 27, 1995, gunshot death of Bill Butterfield in his home in the suburbs of Fort Worth as well as the subsequent arrest, trial, and conviction of the victim’s killer, his 18-year-old son, Lance. Hollandsworth interviewed Butterfield family members, their friends and neighbors, local authorities and also conducted a prison interview with the young gunman.
Hollandsworth, a winner and four-time finalist for the National Magazine Award, also co-wrote (with Richard Linklater) the 2011 film Bernie, based on another Texas Monthly article by the journalist. Hollandsworth also is the author of The Midnight Assassin, published in 2016 by Henry Holt and Co., about a serial killer on the loose in Austin in the 1880s.
Tannenbaum is repped by CAA, Harmon is with Paradigm and Pizzo is with David Greenblatt.