Natalie Portman has closed a deal to direct and star in an untitled biopic about the identical twin sisters who wrote advice columns as Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers.
The sisters were born in 1918. Dear Abby was launched in 1956 by Pauline Esther Friedman in the San Francisco Chronicle. Her twin sister was born Esther Pauline Friedman and won a contest in 1955 to take over the “Ask Ann Landers” advice column in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Both used straightforward styles in dispensing common-sense advice. The competing columns led to the sisters having a bitter professional rivalry that lasted the rest of their lives.
Portman will play both sisters for the project. Katie Robbins, a producer and staff writer on the TV series “The Affair,” wrote the script. Producers are Peter Saraf and Dani Melia of Big Beach Films. Saraf received a best picture Oscar nomination for “Little Miss Sunshine” and has credits on “Loving,” “The Kings of Summer,” “Safety Not Guaranteed,” and “Jack Goes Boating.”
No start date has been set for the production. Portman made her directorial debut with the 2015 Israeli drama “A Tale of Love and Darkness.” She’s starring with Jude Law in the music drama “Vox Lux,” which will premiere at the Venice Film Festival, and Xavier Dolan’s “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,” which will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.
Portman is represented by CAA and the law offices of George Sheanshang. Robbins is repped by UTA, Aaron Kogan, and attorney Jonathan E. Shikora. The news was first reported by Collider.