EXCLUSIVE: Noah Hawley’s 26 Keys has set a new feature and a TV pilot with Matthew Baker, the author who has set Hollywood on fire with short stories that have sparked major bidding battles over the past year.
They will team for Lost Souls, a feature they’ve just set at Fox Searchlight, and Why Visit America, an FX pilot they’ll develop with Baker writing it, marking the first time he’s done that. Hawley will exec produce. Both of these are based on Baker short stories, making this the fourth Baker short story that Hawley has made a deal to produce.
Lost Souls is set in a world in which some babies are born without souls. A young expectant mother is sent to an unusual wellness center in the desert, with the hopes that it will improve her chances of delivering a healthy baby.
Here’s the log line for Why Visit America: Feeling the country has lost its way, the population of a tiny Texas town decide to secede. When the outside world fails to take notice, they use their new freedoms to redefine their lives and relationships.
Hawley’s 26 Keys also has a deal at Fox to adapt To Be Read Backwards, with John Henry Butterworth adapting and Hawley attached to direct. That film follows a man who begins his life at his death and learns about himself as he, and the world, unravel in reverse, ultimately revealing humanity and mystery. Hawley’s 26 Keys is also producing for Amazon Transition, which Joe Epstein is adapting. When a young man tells his family he’s planning to transition, to shed his physical body and have his mind converted to digital data, his mother struggles to come to grips with what she feels is an unimaginable decision.
Baker short stories have sparked several recent bidding battles. Netflix closed a deal in competition for Life Sentence, with Matt Reeves and his 6th & Idaho producing. Eight suitors bid on that one; his short The Appearance, sold to Makeready got set up with The Picture Company producing.
Hawley’s 26 Keys has generated the shows Legion and Fargo, and the Hawley-directed film Lucy in the Sky for Searchlight later this year, with Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, Dan Stevens, Ellen Burstyn, Tig Notaro and Zazie Beetz starring. 26 Keys’ Head of Film Leigh Kittay and Head of Television Dan Seligmann will oversee the Baker projects.
Hawley started as a novelist, and he sparked to the chance to champion a strong new writer voice.
“Matthew is the rarest of writers, one who can turn complex, high-concept stories into sublime character-driven psalms,” he said. “His work is both highly original and refreshingly human.”
Said Baker: “Noah is one of the greatest magicians alive. Every story that he creates is like a carefully crafted magic trick that’s designed to astonish and dazzle you while simultaneously defying all explanation. He’s a truly visionary storyteller, and I’m honored and delighted to be working on so many projects together.”
Both Hawley and Baker are repped by CAA; Hawley is also repped by McKuin Frankel Whitehead.