“Diary of a Teenage Girl” director Marielle Heller is helming the pic from a script by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster.
“I’m thrilled to be making ‘You Are My Friend,'” Heller said. “The script knocked me out with its message of kindness and its exploration of the human spirit. As a mother, I am so inspired by the teachings of Fred Rogers and as a human I am in awe of his life’s work. I can’t wait to bring his story to the public and be a part of such a thoughtful, smart group of people who are all coming together to make this film, which truly feels to me like an antidote to our very fractured culture.”
The film is inspired by a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and award-winning journalist Tom Junod. In the story, a cynical journalist begrudgingly accepts an assignment to write a profile piece on the beloved icon and finds his perspective on life transformed.
“This is the perfect alchemy of talent coming together at the perfect time to remind us all of the transformative power of kindness and respect to heal and to unite. We are proud to partner with Marielle, Tom and everyone at Big Beach to bring this inspirational true story to audiences all over the world,” said Hannah Minghella, president of TriStar Pictures.
Big Beach Films is producing with Marc Turtletaub and Peter Saraf producing for the company alongside Youree Henley (“The Beguiled”). Leah Holzer of Big Beach will executive produce, along with Fitzerman-Blue and Harpster. The project originated from a true story developed by Fitzerman-Blue and Harpster, first appearing on the Black List in 2013.
“Now more than ever, we all need a re-introduction to Fred Rogers’ message of uncompromising love and kindness between all living things. Mari Heller is the perfect visionary filmmaker to bring Noah and Micah’s script to life and because of her vision and this remarkable script, we have the quintessential actor to play Fred Rogers,” said Turtletaub and Saraf.
Minghella and Shary Shirazi will oversee the project for TriStar Pictures. Production is set to begin in September. CAA and UTA brokered the deal.
Hanks is hardly a stranger to playing real-life personalities. In last year’s “The Post,” which was recently nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards, he played Washington Post editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee. It’s currently unknown when this film would start production, as Hanks has a handful of films expected to shoot this year, including Sony’s World War II movie “Greyhound,” which Hanks wrote as well as stars in.
Hanks is also attached to star in the Amblin film “Bios,” which is produced by Robert Zemeckis with Miguel Sapochnik directing. Hanks is repped by CAA.
Heller is represented by UTA and Ziffren Law Firm. Fitzerman-Blue and Harpster are represented by UTA and managed by Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment and James Feldman at Lichter, Grossman Law Firm. Junod is represented by Lucy Stille of APA and David Black of the David Black Agency.