Reigning Oscar winner Casey Affleck has signed on to star in an adaptation of John Williams’ celebrated 1965 novel STONER for Blumhouse Productions, Cohen Media Group and Film 4, it was announced Tuesday.
Joe Wright, whose upcoming Winston Churchill film Darkest Hour is said to be a strong Oscar contender, will direct from a script by Andrew Bovell, who is adapting the novel.
Stoner follows the hardscrabble life of William Stoner (Affleck), a dirt-poor farmer turned academic, who emerges as an unlikely existential hero while making his way through the first half of the 20th century. The book’s fans include Tom Hanks and the novelists Bret Easton Ellis and Nick Hornby.
Blumhouse principal Jason Blum will produce with CMG’s Charles S. Cohen and Film4’s Daniel Battsek, while Ethan Hawke will serve as executive producer. Battsek and Blum brought the project to Film4 for development during Battsek’s time as president of CMG, so he retains a producer credit on this one occasion, for what has long been a passion project of his.
“Because the novel is so beautiful but not well-known, fans of Stoner feel like they’re in a secret club. I’m so excited that Casey, Joe and Andrew have come aboard to help expand this club’s membership,” said Blum, who optioned the book in 2011. “This quintessentially American work is being brought to the screen by a terrific international team, and we’re confident their combined perspectives will add rich layers to this moving story.”
Affleck won an Oscar for his powerful performance in Manchester by the Sea, and he was also nominated for his turn opposite Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Affleck next stars alongside Robert Redford in The Old Man and the Gun, and he also stars in his own directorial debut Light of My Life.
Wright’s credits include Pride & Prejudice, The Soloist, Hanna, Anna Karenina and the Oscar-nominated drama Atonement. Wright will be looking to rebound from the underperformance of Pan with Darkest Hour, which finds Gary Oldman’s Churchill leading the charge against Adolf Hitler’s army in the early days of WWII.
Bovell is a playwright and screenwriter whose credits include the Mel Gibson movie Edge of Darkness, Lantana (based on his award-winning play Speaking in Tongues), and the adaptation of John le Carré’s novel A Most Wanted Man.
Affleck is represented by WME and Ziffren Brittenham, while CAA reps Wright. Bovell is represented by HLA Management in Australia and International Property Group.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief