Chestnut Hill Prods. has acquired movie rights to Donna Williams’ best-selling autobiography “Nobody Nowhere,” about the 29-year-old Australian author’s lifelong struggle with autism.
Subtitled “The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic” and published last year by Times Books/Random House, it is, in the writer’s words, the story of “two battles, a battle to keep out ‘the world’ and a battle to join it.”
Chestnut Hill topper Jeffrey Lurie will produce the screen version with Barbara Levy and Lori Christina Weiss, who are partnered in a first-look deal with the indie company.
Lurie said the company is currently seeking a writer to adapt the book and is “looking to attach a major actress in the development of the screenplay.”
He describes Williams’ story as “one of incredible courage and inspiration,” which he believes lends itself to being a “tremendously cinematic and moving film” tailored for a major leading lady and top-drawer director.
Lurie added that “Nobody” is “the most courageous adventure story I’ve ever read.”
“It’s about a human being going up against all odds and attempting to live life to its fullest while at the same time staging a battle againsteverything that tries to keep her away from the rest of the world,” he said.
The book chronicles Williams’ psychological journey beginning at an early age , when, according to the author’s accounts, she was physically and verbally abused by her mother, who was embarrassed by her daughter’s behavior. It continues through her discovery of the truth about her own disorder, just a few years ago, while working at a London hospital doing research.
In previously published magazine articles, Williams talked about how, in order to get through life, she developed two personas — a confrontational and analytical child named Willie and a charming, cooperative little girl she secretly called Carol.
Today, Williams, who lives in England and is working on more writing projects , now relates to others as herself, not as either “character.”
While the writer went through years of conventional analysis, she said it was her own book that turned out to be the best therapy.
The book is currently ranked No. 14 on the New York Times Best-Seller List for non-fiction and has been a best-seller for several months.
Lurie said when he read Williams’ manuscript seven months ago, “I had no idea it would turn out to be a best-seller.”
Chestnut Hill’s previously produced credits include Lawrence Kasdan’s “I Love You to Death,” the Don Johnson-Susan Sarandon starrer “Sweet Hearts Dance, “”Blind Side” starring Rutger Hauer, “V.I. Warshawski” with Kathleen Turner, and the just-completed HBO showcase movie “Slow Bleed,” starring Joe Mantegna and Lynn Whitfield.