Ron Howard to Direct, Produce ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Movie

Ron Howard

Ron Howard will direct and produce the contemporary economic drama “Hillbilly Elegy,” based on J.D. Vance’s bestselling memoir.

Howard will produce with Imagine Entertainment chairman Brian Grazer and the company’s president, Erica Huggins. Julie Oh will oversee the project for Imagine. A writer has not yet been set.


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Imagine acquired the movie rights to the book following a bidding war. Vance’s book recaps growing up in the Rust Belt and the everyday struggles of America’s white working class as they navigate through drug addiction, and social and economic challenges. Supported by his grandmother, Vance developed a deep appreciation for education that laid the foundation for him to rise out of poverty and its cultural restraints.

“‘Hillbilly Elegy’ is a powerful, true coming-of-age memoir by JD Vance,” Huggins said. “Through the lens of a colorful, chaotic family, and with remarkable compassion and self-awareness, JD has been able to look back on his own upbringing as a ‘hillbilly’ to illuminate the plight of America’s white working class, speaking directly to the turmoil of our current political climate.”

Vance grew up in Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. After enlisting in the Marine Corps and serving in Iraq, he graduated from Ohio State University and Yale Law School. He has contributed to the National Review, and has recently joined CNN as a political contributor.

“I don’t know what the answer is, precisely, but I know it starts when we stop blaming Obama or Bush or faceless companies and ask ourselves what we can do to make things better,” Vance wrote. “We hillbillies need to wake the hell up.”

Howard most recently directed the documentary “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week” and Tom Hanks’ “Inferno.” He won a best picture and best director Academy Award for “A Beautiful Mind.”

WME negotiated the deal on behalf of Vance with Steve Shikiya of Imagine Entertainment and Logan Clare of Ziffren Brittenham LLP for Imagine. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

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  1. RE Avery says:

    An arrogant and presumptuous book. I hope Howard treats it simply as one man’ atypical life story and not some kind of pompous parable for our times, which would be a fiasco.

  2. R.J. Campbell says:

    I for one certainly hope “RON” films on actual book locations .
    Being in a #RonHoward production would be an Epic event in My life to say the least .
    WGN America just cancelled “Outsiders ” and I loved working with this Family Dynamic collective .
    Perhaps will be chosen to do the casting for Hillbilly Elegy . & I would get to be on set with all my mountain family again .I’m 49 & have that distinctive Hillbilly look , as do my Farrell kuzins who are now looking for new work that fits their look .Ged GedYah! : Rajaca Romeo Farrell the 7eventh

  3. betsy says:

    This is fantastic news, Ron is so good and JD’s book is a master peice.

  4. Appalachia, a geographical region, has been manipulated and maligned since oil and coal become the predominate fuels of the Industrial Revolution. My people come from the mountains of Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee — ironworkers and agriculturalists. My mother’s family valued education so much that they ate mush, vegetables and wild game to keep the oldest child at Spelman College at the beginning of the 20th century.

    Unfortunately, books, movies and uninformed people keep Appalachia the step-child of America. Instead, the same region should be celebrated as America’s first frontier and the source of wealth for those who stole the minerals and lumber from the land, and manipulated the people. It’s people were the migrants who moved to northern industrial centers to work in steelmills and car factories.

    All Appalachians are not White, nor stupid!

  5. Scott C says:

    Wow. Typical behavior. Unable to look at yourselves in the mirror and accept reality. The numbers speak for themselves. You can deny it all you want but education is not a top priority for the CULTURE of that region. This is a region of multi-generational coal miners and steel manufacturers which has withered up and gone away. Whole towns are gone. Ones that remain have greater than 50/60/even 70% below the poverty line. YES, this is the TRUTH. Change the culture, change the people.

  6. Travis Stimeling says:

    As a scholar of Appalachian music and a professor at an Appalachian university, I continue to be appalled by the amount of bandwidth this book is taking up. Vance has grossly mischaracterized the region while presenting himself as an opioid-era Horatio Alger hero. The region certain has its problems, but, as a great deal of evidence-based research indicates, these problems are NOT the result of deeply-embedded character flaws but broader structures that treat the region’s people and land as resources to be exploited for material gain. This book–and the proposed film based on it–is just another example of the ways that Appalachia has been mined for the comfort of others.

  7. COLLEEN UNROE says:

    As a person with half my family from the mountains of Virginia and having lived in East Kentucky as a community organizer for 8 years AND someone who is a graduate student at Penn State who is working on a dissertation about the amazing community leaders in Harlan County, KY, I find the idea of this ABSOLUTELY INSULTING AND UNACCEPTABLE!

    And you best believe that people who study and work in Central Appalachia, every single person I have spoken with about this WHO ARE FROM AND CURRENTLY LIVE IN THE REGION, they are not happy about this book nor will they be excited about this misrepresentation of their culture. If I were to hazard a guess, you will be getting a lot of follow-up about this…

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