Lurie’s credits include “The Contender,” “The Last Castle,” and “Straw Dogs.”
Branded Pictures, founded by producer J. Todd Harris, optioned Garry Williams’ adaptation of Al Snyder’s story about the Church. Williams’ credits include BPE’s recent film “So B. It.”
Harris and Lurie’s producing partner, Marc Frydman, are shopping the project to potential producers and distributors.
The story focuses on the aftermath of the 2006 death of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who was killed while serving in Iraq. Member of Kansas church protested the funeral, with members carrying placards that read “Semper Fi Fags,” “God Hates You,” and similar provocative sentiments.
Citing defamation, invasion of privacy, and other complaints, Matthew Snyder’s father Al Snyder sued the church and its founders, the Phelps family. The highly publicized case ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the church and the Phelps family, on freedom of speech grounds. The movie’s narrative will include the fact — not revealed at the trial — that Al is a gay man, whose partner was fighting cancer during the agonizing legal battle.
“The first amendment is the FIRST amendment for a reason — our most cherished right. But it often creates muddy and uncomfortable situations, ones that are the source of great drama and national self-reflection,” Lurie said.
“This story makes allies out of the gay and military communities, as the Westboro Baptist Church’s assault on the First Amendment turns out to be an attack on both,” Harris said. “I’m a long-time fan of Rod, a thoughtful patriot who gravitates toward stories of righteousness. He’s perfect for this movie.”
Branded Pictures Entertainment recently launched another project, beginning work in October on the adaptation of ex-Rep. Steve Israel’s (D-N.Y.) satirical novel, “Big Guns.”
“(Hate) A Love Story” is the second feature project in development about the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka,, Kan., one of the nation’s most recognized hate groups, best known its anti-gay rhetoric. In August, Marc Webb was attached to direct “This Above All,” based on the true-life story of former church member Megan Phelps-Roper.
Phelps-Roper is the granddaughter of Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church. She grew up espousing the teachings of her family but left the church in 2012 and was disowned by her family. Producers are Dawn Ostroff and Jeremy Steckler of Condé Nast Entertainment, Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea for Made Up Stories, Marc Webb and River Road Entertainment’s Bill Pohlad. River Road will finance.