Selma director Ava DuVernay is set to direct THE BATTLE OF VERSAILLES for HBO Films, based on the non-fiction DuVernay is co-writing the script with 2014 Hit List writer Michael Starrbury, based on the 2015 non-fiction The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History by Pulitzer-Prize winning fashion journalist Robin Givhan.
The film will recount the night of November 28, 1973, when the world’s social elite gathered at the Palace of Versailles for an international fashion show. Conceived as a fund-raiser for the restoration of King Louis XIV’s palace, in the late fall of 1973, five top American designers faced off against five top French designers in an over-the-top runway extravaganza. An audience filled with celebrities and international jet-setters, including Princess Grace of Monaco, the Duchess of Windsor, Paloma Picasso, and Andy Warhol, were treated to an opulent performance featuring Liza Minnelli, Josephine Baker, and Rudolph Nureyev.
The Americans at the Battle of Versailles – Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, and Stephen Burrows – showed their work against the five French designers considered the best in the world – Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior. Plagued by in-fighting, outsized egos, shoestring budgets, and innumerable technical difficulties, the American contingent had little chance of meeting the European’s exquisite and refined standards. But against all odds, the American energy and the domination by the fearless models (ten of whom, in a groundbreaking move, were African American) sent the audience reeling. By the end of the evening, the Americans had officially taken their place on the world’s stage, prompting a major shift in the way race, gender, sexuality, and economics would be treated in fashion for decades to come.
DuVernay recently boarded the Disney adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s classic children’s novel A Wrinkle In Time. She is writing, directing and executive producing Queen Sugar, a new drama series for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network. She is repped by CAA.
Starrbury recently worked on the Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez On Me, while his 2014 Hit List script Ares is currently in development with The Mark Gordan Company and Paramount after the studio preemptively bought the script last fall. He is repped by CAA and Circle of Confusion.
Josh Lyons | Managing Editor