Film News Roundup: Columbus Short Developing Biopic on Baseball Player Dock Ellis

In today’s film news roundup, Columbus Short is developing a film based on the life of major league baseball player Dock Ellis, Patricia Arquette gets her first feature directing gig, “The Deuce” star Emily Meade joins “Trial by Fire” and Angourie Rice is starring in Australian drama ‘Ladies in Black.”

PROJECT DEVELOPMENT

Columbus Short and Artistry Films are developing a film based on the life of the late major league baseball player Dock Ellis, Variety has learned exclusively.

The project, titled “Ellis D,” is planned to go into production next year. The project will be produced by Max Gousse and Short at Artistry Films, who announced Tuesday that they have acquired life rights from Ellis’ widow, Hjordis Ellis, who has been consulting on the project.

Short plans to star in the film. He wrote the script along with actor/writer Lane Garrison (“Prison Break”).

It’s the second Ellis biopic in the works in Hollywood. In June, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., was announced as being cast as Ellis in an untitled movie with David Permut (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Jeff Kwatinetz, and Ice Cube producing from a script by Joey Poach.

Ellis played in the major leagues for 12 years, nine with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was an outspoken advocate for African-American players. He gained notoriety after he retired by disclosing that he had pitched a no-hitter in 1970 while high on LSD.

Ellis played on World Series champion teams in 1971 with the Pirates and in 1976 with the New York Yankees. He retired in 1979 and subsequently admitted that he had never pitched a game sober and ultimately sought treatment for his alcohol and drug addiction. He then dedicated the rest of his life to counseling those suffering from substance abuse problems specializing in counseling drug addicts before dying of a liver ailment in 2008 at the age of 63.

“The trajectory of Dock Ellis’ life is a true story of rehabilitation, resilience, victory and freedom,” Short said. “As a filmmaker, to be able to bring this compelling story to life is a dream come true. ‘Ellis D’ is a labor of love for all involved, and we will nurture the film and help it find the audience it deserves.”

Gousse said, “Baseball has profoundly influenced the lives of Americans for many years, shaping our ideas of masculinity and serving as a background for civil rights. In combining those vital social aspects with the imprints that Dock has left on the sport, it gives us great joy to immortalize the life of the late great Dock Ellis on the big screen.”

Short recently starred in and produced the romantic drama “True to the Game,” based on Teri Woods’ novel of the same name. He was a regular on “Scandal” and stars in the upcoming action-thriller “Armed,” written and directed by Mario Van Peebles.

Garrison recently finished starring in the independent comedy “The Divorce Party,” produced by Sunil Perkash. He also wrote the script. Short is repped by Tracy Christian at TCA/Jed Root, Craig Emanuel at Loeb & Loeb, and Gousse at Artistry Worldwide Management. Garrison is repped by Abrams Artists, Crimson Media Group, Untitled Entertainment, and Mark Johnson at Behr Abramson Levy.

DIRECTING ASSIGNMENT

Patricia Arquette will make her directorial debut on Sony’s drama “Love Canal,” based on the Will Battersby documentary “The Canal.”

The project is written by Brad Desch and focused on a group of working class housewives from Love Canal, N.Y., who opposed the government and the chemical industry in the 1970s, resulting in the relocation of families from homes built on lots where massive amounts of toxic chemicals had been dumped.

Producers are Safe House’s Tory Tunnell, Battersby, Arquette, and 3 Arts’ Richard Abate. Joby Harold and Molly Madden will be exec producers. Production companies are Safe House and 3 Arts. Hannah Minghella and Shary Shirazi will oversee for Sony’s TriStar.

Arquette is starring with Benicio del Toro and Paul Dano in Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora.” She is repped by 3 Arts and Gersh. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

CASTINGS

“The Deuce” star Emily Meade has joined Laura Dern and Jack O’Connell in the drama “Trial by Fire,” which has started shooting in Atlanta.

Producers are the Bedford Falls Company, Flashlight Films, and Alex Soros. Edward Zwick is directing from a script by Geoffrey Fletcher.

“Trial by Fire” is based on the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, played by O’Connell as a poor, uneducated devotee of heavy metal with a violent criminal record. Meade plays Willingham’s wife, mother to their three small children. When a fire rips through their home and the children are trapped inside, Willingham is convicted of arson and triple homicide, ultimately spending 12 years on death row.

Dern co-stars as Elizabeth Gilbert, a Texas housewife who forms an unlikely bond with Willingham and fights for his freedom. Jeff Perry, David Wilson Barnes, and Chris Coy (“The Deuce”) also star.

Meade currently stars in HBO’s “The Deuce” as a young Minnesota woman who has recently arrived in New York City. She starred last year in “Nerve,” opposite Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, and in Jodie Foster’s “Money Monster,” starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. She also starred in the first season of HBO’s “The Leftovers.”

Zwick directed “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” “Pawn Sacrifice,” and “The Last Samurai.” Meade is represented by CAA and Authentic Management.

******

Angourie Rice and Julia Ormond are starring in the period Australian drama “Ladies in Black,” with Bruce Beresford directing.

Rice, whose profile has risen from roles in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “The Beguiled,” and “The Nice Guys,” will portray shy schoolgirl Lisa Miles who takes a summer job at the grand city department store in Sydney in 1959 while awaiting the results of her final exams. She meets glamorous “ladies in black” employed by the store, who help her become a positive young woman and a catalyst for a cultural change in everyone’s lives.

Ormond will play a Slovenian emigre who’s the manager of the high-fashion floor. Other cast members include Rachael Taylor as Fay Baines, Alison McGirr, Vincent Perez, Ryan Corr, Susie Porter, and Shane Jacobson.

Production is starting this month in Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

The film is produced by Allanah Zitserman and Sue Milliken. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions’ Stage 6 Films is the worldwide distributor with the film receiving major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Create NSW.

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