Warner Bros. Pictures acquired the film rights to the novel, which was published on June 4, on behalf of Kroll & Co. WGA-nominated Masters of Sex creator Michelle Ashford, who earned an Emmy nom for co-writing HBO’s The Pacific, will adapt the feature screenplay.
It’s Gilbert’s second book to be adapted for the big screen, after her memoir Eat Pray Love, which racked up $205M at the global box office in 2010. City of Girls is set against the backdrop of the New York City theater world of the 1940s, centering on a young woman’s exploration of love, sex, self-discovery and friendship.
Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grande-dame actress, a lady-killer writer and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves – and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it.
“Reading City of Girls was a very sentimental and nostalgic experience for me,” Kroll tells Deadline. “Many of these female characters reminded me of the glamorous, unconventional and artistic women who my father, theater critic Jack Kroll, and my mother knew. Having grown up hearing stories about the inner circles of New York’s theater and art world, I’m very excited to bring this novel to the big screen as it is a world I long to revisit.”
She added, “This is a world that many haven’t been privy to in movies, and the exploration of this young woman’s journey will speak greatly to contemporary audiences.”
Said Gilbert: “I’m thrilled to be working with the inimitable Sue Kroll and the brilliant Michelle Ashford on the adaptation of my novel. More than any book I’ve ever written, City of Girls always felt like it wanted to be a movie. The entire time I was writing the novel, I was picturing it on the big screen. Something about the glittering and glamorous sex-appeal of the New York City theater world in the 1940s just demands to be brought to life in the most vivid and shining way. The fact that this will be a female-led production makes me happier still, because City of Girls was always meant to be a story for women, and about women. My characters could not be in better hands with Kroll and Ashford. I’m over the moon.”
Gilbert’s GQ article about her time as a bartender at NYC’s Coyote Ugly saloon was another piece adapted for the big screen. Disney’s Jerry Bruckheimer-produced 2000 feature Coyote Ugly, starring Piper Pirabo, made $115M global. Gilbert is represented by The Wylie Agency and Anonymous Content. Ashford is repped by CAA and Gendler & Kelly.
Kroll recently executive produced Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn and the $435M blockbuster A Star Is Born. Up next for Kroll & Co. is the February 7 release of DC film Birds of Prey. Also in the works is the sci-fi action thriller Nemesis, with producers Ridley Scott and Jules Daly; an untitled comedy starring Sandra Bullock, who will also produce with Michael Bostick; the action thriller The Six Billion Dollar Man starring Mark Wahlberg, a film based on Peter Kornbluth’s Politico article “My Dearest Fidel: A Journalist’s Secret Liaison with Fidel Castro” with producers Gal Gadot and Jaron Varsano; and feature adaptations of Annie Ward’s Beautiful Bad and Jonathan Lethem’s The Feral Detective. Kroll is also an EP on the DC action adventure Blackhawk, directed by Steven Spielberg.