Gotham/Principal, producers of “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” will team up with Bryce Zabel and Jackie Zabel via their Stellar Prods. to produce alien-abduction story “Captured.”
The project is based on the story of Betty and Barney Hill, an interracial couple from Portsmouth, N.H., who said they were captured by a UFO on Sept. 19, 1961. The Hills — a black postal clerk and a white social worker — claimed they had been studied by extraterrestrials and then returned to Earth with missing memories that were later retrieved under hypnosis.
Bryce Zabel, creator of the NBC/Sony alien-themed series “Dark Skies,” will write the script. The story is based on the 2007 non-fiction book “Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience: The True Story of the World’s First Documented Alien Abduction” by nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman and Betty Hill’s niece Kathleen Marden.
Producers plan to make the film in a context of both Cold War paranoia and the country’s struggle over race relations.
“Captured is a true story that explores the birth of modern UFO lore through the eyes of the first Americans to report that they were kidnapped by aliens,” said Eric Robinson, who will also produce the film on behalf of Gotham/Principal. “This is an exciting story that is as intriguing, timely and ripe for adaptation today as it was 54 years ago when this incident occurred.”
Stellar CEO Jackie Zabel said the Hills were unique in a number of aspects.
“They were an interracial couple in a country that still had segregation laws, and they lived in a city that was next door to a bomber base bristling with nuclear weapons,” she noted. “What they knew and why they were targeted will make for a phenomenal film.”
Bryce Zabel is a former CNN correspondent. His writing credits include the features “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” and “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and TV series “The Crow,” “L.A. Law” and “Lois and Clark.”
Zabel wrote Syfy’s first original film “Official Denial,” worked on the development team for Steven Spielberg’s “Taken,” and has recently co-authored the non-fiction “A.D. After Disclosure.” He’s a former CEO/chairman of the Television Academy.
The deal was brokered by Eric Robinson of Gotham/Principal and Jason Leibovitch of Leibo Management on behalf of Stellar.