Billy Porter To Direct High School Coming-Of Age Pic ‘What If?’ In First Movie From Relaunched Orion Pictures

By Anthony D'Alessandro, Patrick Hipes

Billy Porter
Shavonne Wong

Orion Pictures has set its first feature film project since its relaunch, securing Emmy-winning Pose star Billy Porter to direct What If?, a high school coming-of-age drama penned by Alvaro García Lecuona.

Pic, billed as a cross between coming-of-age features Booksmart and Love Simon, follows high school senior KHAL who posts on r/relationships about his crush on Kelsa, a trans girl at his school. The internet encourages him to go for it and the two navigate a high school senior year relationship that neither could have expected.”

What If? is produced by Christine Vachon and David Hinojosa on behalf of Killer Films (First Reformed, Carol, Zola) along with Andrew Lauren and D.J. Gugenheim on behalf of Andrew Lauren Productions (Vox Lux, The Spectacular Now, High Life). The project marks the first film under MGM and Killer Films recently announced first-look deal.

Alana Mayo, President of Orion Pictures said, “We couldn’t be more excited to work with Billy Porter on his feature directing debut and are privileged that he, Alvaro, and the producing team behind this special film have entrusted us with their vision for this beautiful, contemporary love story. What If? is perfectly emblematic of the ambitions we have for the new Orion Pictures: to tell stories about the totality of the human experience.”

Billy Porter said, “I’m thrilled to be part of this new space in Hollywood for telling all types of stories from all types of people. I am grateful to be in a position to usher some of these stories into the mainstream and I am humbled that heavy hitters like Christine Vachon and Alana Mayo have entrusted and empowered me in this insane time we all find ourselves in.”

Porter is an award-winning actor, singer, director, composer, and playwright. In 2019, Porter won the Emmy Award for Lead Actor for his appearance in FX’s Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated drama Pose, and in 2020 received his second Emmy nomination for this role. A Hollywood Walk of Fame inductee, Porter has numerous theatre credits, including the role of Lola in the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, which he originated in 2013 and for which he won the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards, as well as the Grammy for best musical-theatre album. He recently shot Sony’s feature musical Cinderella playing the Fairy Godmother opposite Camila Cabello. He was seen earlier this year in the Paramount comedy Like a Boss and is set to play the voice of Audrey II in Warner Bros.’ musical update of Little Shop of Horrors.

Lecuona is a screenwriter based in Los Angeles and Mexico City. Bisexual, bigender and bilingual – Alvaro is known for telling accessible stories with a distinctly contemporary perspective across genres, genders and borders. What If? was on the first annual GLAAD list, and placed on the 2019 HIT LIST. They are currently developing a horror project called No Me Sigas in Mexico, a screenlife project with Bazelevs, as well as their half-hour TV show with Atlas Entertainment.

Porter is represented by CAA and Industry Entertainment. Garcia Lecuona is represented by APA and Vision Entertainment.

The deal was brokered in a competitive situation by Endeavor Content’s Deb McIntosh and Abe Bengio and with David Boyle and Bethany Haynes on behalf of ALP and Killer respectively.

Orion Pictures is exclusively dedicated to underrepresented voices and authentic storytelling in film with a focus on developing, producing and acquiring feature films that amplify underserved voices, both in front of and behind the camera.

Killer Films has produced several of the most acclaimed American independent films since launching in 1995, including the Academy Award winning Boys Don’t Cry and Still Alice; the Academy- Award nominated Carol, Far From Heaven, and I’m Not There; along with One Hour Photo, Kids, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Happiness, Velvet Goldmine, Safe, I Shot Andy Warhol, Swoon and Kill Your Darlings. Additionally, Killer Films executive produced Todd Haynes’ five-episode HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce featuring Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce, which went on to win five Emmys, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award. The company’s upcoming projects include Todd Hayne’s documentary on The Velvet Underground, The World To Come, starring Vanessa Kirby, Casey Affleck and Katherine Waterston; Ryan Murphy’s untitled Netflix mini­series about fashion designer Halston starring Ewan McGregor; and the multi-part docuseries on LGBT+ rights in the US Pride for FX.

ALP is a film and television production company run by CEO Andrew Lauren and President D.J. Gugenheim. The company is known for supporting unique visions, having produced two of the most striking films in recent years: Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux starring Natalie Portman and Jude Law, and Claire Denis’ first English-language feature High Life, starring Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche. ALP has also produced The Spectacular Now and Squid and the Whale. The company is represented by attorney David Boyle.

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