Spelling bees seem to be part of the entertainment zeitgeist these days, as “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is part of a wave of spelling-related projects.
ESPN began airing the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in 1994. The bee’s director, Paige Kimble, says that was a “real turning point for this organization” because it “opened the drama of the event to millions of homes.”
Kimble says the bee’s TV broadcast was the impetus for “Spellbound,” Jeffrey Blitz’s 2002 doc that followed eight of the 1999 national bee’s eccentric young competitors.
Disney bought the rights to adapt the doc into a musical, which is still in development, though the new “Spelling Bee” musical certainly casts doubt on its future as a Broadway vehicle.
Last year, the BBC aired a spelling bee gameshow called “Hard Spell.”
Myla Goldberg’s 2000 novel “Bee Season,” about a spelling champ in a troubled family, has been adapted into a Fox Searchlight film starring Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche. And Lions Gate has wrapped production on “Akeelah and the Bee,” starring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, about a girl from the inner city trying to make it to the nationals. Both pics are skedded for release later this year.