Carrie Buck’s Sterilization Subject of Melissa Hilfer’s Hot New Spec “Unfit,” Now Into Territories With Producers (Exclusive)

Carrie Buck Emma Buck UnfitUniversity at Albany – SUNY

Update (02.03.17 – 10am): In a mid-six figure deal, Amazon has won the bidding war for Unfit, for which Dakota Johnson is closing a deal to star. The Tracking Board first reported on the bidding war and Johnson’s expected involvement. Brett Ratner will produce the film for Amazon, which landed its first Best Picture nomination this year for Manchester by the Sea. Deadline broke the news of the Amazon deal.

Update (02.01.17 – 12:30pm): We’re hearing that Brett Ratner/RatPac are now part of a package going into Warner Bros., Universal and Amazon (with Dakota Johnson as Ratner’s top choice to star), while producers Michael De Luca and Ian Bryce are taking Unfit into A24 and Paramount, respectively. Stay tuned…

The original story is below.

34 years after her death, is at the center of a timely biopic that has A-list actresses across Hollywood paying attention.

Written by , who sold her spec Undone to Black Bear Pictures and Parkes+MacDonald, is set in the not-so-distant past, when America was gripped by a political movement that promised to eliminate the “unfit” from our country.

Buck was the young Virginia woman who became a lightning rod for that movement, and was forced to single-handedly fight against it for the one thing she desperately wanted — to be a mother.

’s and are out with the Unfit script, which is expected to find a home given the topicality of its universal themes.

Buck was the plaintiff of a U.S. Supreme Court case after having been ordered to undergo compulsory sterilization for purportedly being “feeble-minded.” Under the authority of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which was part of Virgnia’s eugenics program, the surgery was carried out while she was an inmate of the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. Carrie was paroled shortly after her sterilization was performed.

In order to ensure that the family could not reproduce, Carrie’s sister, Doris, was also sterilized when she was hospitalized for appendicitis, though she was never told about the procedure.

In an eight-to-one decision, the Supreme Court found that the Virginia Sterilization Act of 1924 did not violate the U.S. Constitution.

A Georgia State University law professor named Paul A. Lombardo later alleged that several people manufactured evidence to make the state’s case against . Lombardo was one of several researchers who visited her later in life and claimed she was a woman of normal intelligence.

The story of ’s sterilization and subsequent court case was made into a 1994 TV movie starring Marlee Matlin.

A former litigator at the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Hilfers was a first-time writer when she landed on Hollywood’s radar with her spec Undone, which has been described as Gone Girl meets Primal Fear. That script had echoes of Serial, in that it featured a popular podcast that brings a strange, decades-old murder case into the national spotlight, leading to the case being reopened. The protagonist is a top litigator who fights to free the man the entire country believes was wrongly convicted, until she begins to suspect her own past might be the key to the murder itself.

In addition to , Hilfer is also represented by manager .


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