EXCLUSIVE: Anthony McCarten and his Muse of Fire Productions struck a deal with newly formed producer/financier Compelling Pictures, to produce the big screen adaptation of his forthcoming non-fiction book Wednesday at Warren’s, Friday at Bill’s. The book is both a rigorous examination of the 30-year friendship between Bill Gates and Warren Buffett which has resulted in the largest philanthropic initiative of all time, and an exploration of the role of super-philanthropy in a world where so much wealth now lies in the hands of so few.
Compelling Pictures is headed by Denis O’Sullivan (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Jeff Kalligheri (Submergence), and they are making a pre-emptive deal for the film rights to the book, soon to be published by Harper Collins. They’ll finance development and co-finance production.
McCarten will adapt and will produce alongside O’Sullivan and Kalligheri.
Gates made his reputation and his fortune by co-founding software giant Microsoft with Paul Allen in 1975. He resigned from day-to-day operations of that company in 2006, after being the target of anti-trust litigation brought by the U.S. government. Along with his wife, Melinda, he subsequently devoted himself to full-time charity work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Buffett is a private investor who began buying stocks in a small textile firm called Berkshire Hathaway in 1962. The company is now the third largest in the country. He is currently the 4th richest man in the world, but he still lives in Omaha in the same house he purchased in 1956. In 2006 Warren pledged the majority of his wealth to Bill and Melinda’s foundation. Their combined philanthropic work includes vaccines, education in under-served areas of America, infant mortality, combatting global poverty, and women’s rights in the developing world. To date, the foundation has donated more than $300 million to the search for a coronavirus vaccine.
McCarten is a four-time Oscar nominated screenwriter who focuses on people far more interesting than most of us can claim to be. That includes The Two Popes, Darkest Hour, Bohemian Rhapsody, and The Theory of Everything. On those films, Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury), Gary Oldman (Winston Churchill), and Eddie Redmayne (Stephen Hawking) won lead actor Oscars, and Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins were both nominated for the roles of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict, respectively.
“I’ve increasingly become interested in the role of super-philanthropy in the modern world,” McCarten told Deadline. “Such unprecedented concentrations of wealth ask all new questions, of the wealthy, and of society at large. The Gates and the Buffett families offer incredible characters to explore such themes. From their unpromising first meetings, through their flowering friendships, I couldn’t stop thinking about the moment when each decided to give it all away, an impulse which has now created the largest philanthropic enterprise the world has ever known. How did these people influence each other, if in fact they did? And what do these historic partnerships mean for everyone else?”
Said O’Sullivan and Kalligheri: “Having the opportunity to work with Anthony, Muse of Fire Productions, and Harper Collins on this deeply complex piece about the value of philanthropy, while also holding a light to the increasingly relevant reality of personal wealth dwarfing the holdings of literal countries, is extremely exciting. Particularly as one of the flagship projects for Compelling Pictures, where the aim is to tell character-driven stories with universal themes that resonate.”
McCarten’s Muse of Fire recently set up the Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody, which has Stella Meghie in advanced talks to direct, with McCarten producing along with Pat Houston, Clive Davis, Larry Mestel, and O’Sullivan. McCarten has also written the book for the untitled Neil Diamond Broadway musical, covering the life and music of the famed, award-winning singer/songwriter.
McCarten is repped by David Fox at Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light.