Dimension nabs prison ‘Sister’ act

Gentlemen Pictures takes crack at female driven movie

Dimension Films has optioned rights to “O Sister Where Art Thou,” a Texas Monthly article about a group of eight female Texas prison inmates who formed a singing act hoping it might gain them early release in the 1940s.

Skip Hollandsworth’s 8,000-word article in the mag’s May issue became the subject of a multi-studio bidding war. The winner, Todd Phillips’ Gentlemen Pictures, was a surprise, if only because “Old School,” “Road Trip” and the currently filming “Starsky & Hutch” are testosterone-heavy comedies. Brought in by Miramax and Dimension a year ago to be a comedy catalyst, Phillips has already collared eight projects and has begun to diversify.

Story revolves around the Goree All Girl String Band, which became a national radio sensation. But, shamed by the stigma of serving hard prison time, the ladies gave up singing and hid from their fame.

Dimension also becomes a co-production partner with Warner Bros. on “Starsky & Hutch,” which Phillips just began directing with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson starring.

“This (movie) presented the casting opportunity to do an ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ for women because the characters are smart and sexy,” Phillips said. “There is such a fixation now on people attempting to gain fame and fortune, and here is this group of women who become famous to gain their freedom, and then pushed away the fame.”

It took journo Hollandsworth eight years to crack the case of the Goree Girls, finally locating the last surviving member in a nursing home in November, a few months before she died. He was then able to sketch the backstories of members, including women who murdered and robbed, then ran from their pasts the moment they got clear of the prison walls. It’s the fourth Hollandsworth-penned article in development for features or TV, with WMA handling the sale and Phillips’ deal.

Phillips’ next likely directing effort will be a Dimension remake of the 1960 British comedy “School for Scoundrels,” which he’s scripting with writing partner Scot Armstrong.

Backed by Gentleman Pictures veep Scott Budnick and Dimension co-prexys Andrew Rona and Brad Weston, Phillips’ shingle has also recently acquired:

  • “Goodbye to Romance,” a magazine article by “Troy” scribe David Benioff about a couple of losers who head to Russia to find wives;

  • “8th Grade Washington Trip, a road trip in which love-struck teenagers from 17 states head to D.C. and behave like interns, sexing it up in the Arlington National Cemetery and the Smithsonian;

  • “The Von Doozers,” a Philip Wen-penned “Vacation”-esque comedy involving a family musical act that travels cross-country for an audition; and

  • “The Golden Tux” and “The Man From Nantucket,” two broad comedies penned by Jay Lavender and Jeremy Garelick.

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