Westboro Baptist Church defector movie in the works from Marc Webb, Reese Witherspoon
Producers are Dawn Ostroff and Jeremy Steckler of Condé Nast Entertainment, Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea for Made Up Stories, Marc Webb and River Road Entertainment’s Bill Pohlad. River Road will finance.
The Topeka, Kan., church is one of the nation’s most recognized hate groups, best known its anti-gay rhetoric. The film is being adapted by Nick Hornby from Adrian Chen’s 2015 article for The New Yorker and from Phelps-Roper’s upcoming memoir.
Phelps-Roper is the granddaughter of Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church. She grew up espousing the teachings of her family, preaching God’s power and damning those who sinned.
Megan Phelps-Roper in 2011, before she left the Westboro Baptist Church. (Getty)
Phelps-Roper became one of the most powerful voices on social media for Westboro, using picketing and her Twitter handle for multiple cultural events until ongoing conversations with opponents over Twitter led her to question her belief system. She and her younger sister made the decision in 2012 to leave the church, which led to being disowned by their family.
Webb’s directing credits include “The Only Living Boy in New York,” “Gifted” and the two “Amazing Spider-Man” movies. Hornby received Academy Award nominations for the adapted screenplays for “Brooklyn” and “An Education” along with “Wild.”
“Megan’s extraordinary story says so much about so many things in contemporary America, and I’m really excited about this project,” said Hornby. “I’m looking forward to working with the brilliant Marc Webb, CNÉ and with my friends Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea and River Road, with whom I enjoyed such a good relationship during the making of ‘Wild.’”
Conde Nast’s Ostroff and Steckler are producers on Robert Redford’s “Old Man and the Gun,” which will be released in April by Fox Searchlight. Witherspoon was a producer on “Gone Girl” and “Wild.” River Road’s producing-financing credits include “12 Years a Slave,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Wild,” and “Tree of Life.”
The deal was negotiated by Christa Zofcin Workman for River Road with CAA representing CNÉ, Megan Phelps-Roper, Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea and Mark Webb. Hornby is repped by Casarotto Ramsay & Associates Ltd. Phelps-Roper is also represented by Melissa Flashman at Janklow & Nesbit Associates. The book by Phelps-Roper will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.