The script, written by Doug Wright, is based on a 1995 case filed by high-profile personal-injury attorney Willie Gary on behalf of Jeremiah O’Keefe, the owner of a local chain of Mississippi funeral homes who alleged he had been swindled by Ray Loewen, head of a funeral home conglomerate. The jury in the case awarded a $500 million judgment to O’Keefe.
The project has been developed by producers Jenette Kahn and Adam Richman through their Double Nickle company. “The Burial” was originally developed at Sony.
Payne won two screenwriting Academy Awards and was nominated for best director for “Sideways” and “The Descendants.” He also received a directing nod at the Oscars for “Nebraska.” His other credits include “Citizen Ruth,” “Election,” “About Schmidt,” and “Downsizing,”which underperformed for Paramount last year.
Amazon’s most successful venture into the prestige films arena was “Manchester by the Sea,” which won Oscars for Casey Affleck for best actor and Kenneth Lonergan for original screenplay last year. It handled the release of “The Big Sick,” which received a screenwriting Oscar nomination for Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon.
Payne is repped by CAA. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.