Between the Golden Globes and the Oscar nominations and the Sundance Film Festival, it’s been a while since we’ve checked in on the spec market, and a new year brings with it new scripts. One of the hottest specs currently making waves in Hollywood is Shawn Dwyer’s historical drama 73 SECONDS, which tells the extraordinary true story of Bob Ebeling and Roger Boisjoly, the aerospace engineers who discovered the “o-ring anomaly” that led to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
Now, several scripts have already been written about Christa McAuliffe and the crew of the Challenger, as well as the Rogers Commission, which was formed by the government to investigate the disaster, but no one has ever written a script about Ebeling and Boisjoly, whose story is fascinating in its own right.
Boisjoly correctly predicted, based on earlier flight data, that the O-rings on the rocket boosters would fail if the shuttle launched in cold weather. He and Ebeling tried tried to convince their superiors at Morton-Thiokol and NASA to investigate the “o-ring anomaly,” but they were asked to prove their worrisome theory. This became an extremely complicated and expensive endeavor that took an emotional toll on both of their lives, but helped bring about changes to the Space Shuttle Program that saved the lives of future astronauts.
So in that sense, 73 Seconds is kind of like a cross between Hidden Figures and films like Spotlight and The Post, both of which explore the story behind the story we already know. Here were two ordinary guys who found themselves in an extraordinary situation, struggling to stop something much bigger than them. Boisjoly died in January 2012, while Ebeling died in March 2016, having spent a third of his life consumed with guilt and steeped in his own deep grief.
Sunday was the 32nd anniversary of the Challenger disaster, and the script is now being shopped by David Boxerbaum and Sara Nestor at Verve, and Jeff Portnoy at Bellevue Productions. Stay tuned to this one, as it may not take 73 Seconds much longer than its title to find a buyer.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief