Lifetime has greenlit von Zerneck/Sertner Films’ original two-hour “Gracie’s Choice,” toplining Anne Heche and Kristen Bell (HBO’s “Deadwood”).
Pic reteams prolific TV movie producers Frank von Zerneck and Robert Sertner with the cabler and with “We Were the Mulvaneys” scribe Joyce Eliason and helmer Peter Werner.
Inspired by a true Reader’s Digest story, “Gracie” is the story of 17-year-old girl (Bell), who adopts her four brothers and sister after her drug-addicted mother (Heche) is arrested and thrown in jail.
“There couldn’t be a better place than Lifetime for a story about a woman who was forced to make a difficult decision but gave her family the ultimate gift — herself,” Sertner told Daily Variety. “The mother is an important character, but it’s not a movie about the dark side of people so much as it is about the hope and courage of Gracie.”
Production will begin this month.
“I think this is very much in our tradition of inspirational movies, and Frank and Robert have a wonderfully collaborative relationship with us,” Lifetime senior VP of original movies Trevor Walton said. “We just had ‘Homeless to Harvard,’ and we all felt there were similarities in that both stories involve young women who overcome extraordinary circumstances.”
Von Zerneck and Sertner will exec produce “Gracie” with Stephanie Germaine and Mike Robe.
Pair is in production on the CBS mini “Scott Turow’s Reversible Errors,” with William H. Macy and Tom Selleck. Longform projects in development include the tentatively titled “Martha Mitchell Project” for ABC; “Goodbye, Darkness” for USA; and “Somebody Else’s Mama” and “Vinegar Hill” for CBS.
Von Zerneck/Sertner mostly recently partnered with Lifetime on the TV movie “Killer Instinct: From the Files of Agent Candice DeLong.” They recently completed “The Elizabeth Smart Story” for CBS and “The Mystery of Natalie Wood” for ABC.
Production company is also developing “Working With Available Light,” based on Jamie Kalven’s eponymous memoir, for Lifetime.
In a recurring role on “Ally McBeal,” Heche played Peter MacNicol’s Tourette’s syndrome-stricken girlfriend. She’ll next appear in the upcoming “Prozac Nation.” Her credits include “Six Days and Seven Nights” and “John Q.”
“Anne is such an accomplished actress,” Walton said. “The mother is a complicated woman, and we knew it had to be someone who could give the role all the colors it needs.”
Bell’s film credits include “Pootie Tang” and the upcoming “Spartan.” Thesp also guest starred in the TV dramas “Everwood,” “The Shield” and “American Dreams.” She is repped by Brookside Artist Management, CED and attorney Ira Shreck.