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James Gray Writing, Directing ‘Armageddon Time’ (EXCLUSIVE)

James Gray is going back to school for his next feature.

“The Lost City of Z” filmmaker will write and direct “Armageddon Time,” a memoir about growing up in Queens, New York, in the mid-1980s. In a twist, Fred Trump, the Queens-based real estate developer who sired Donald Trump, and the current president will appear as characters, although the events will unfold long before there was ever a Trump in the White House.

The movie reunites Gray with RT Features, the producer of his upcoming sci-fi epic “Ad Astra.” RT Features’ Rodrigo Teixeira will produce “Armageddon Time.” Gray pitched Teixeira on the idea while they were shooting “Ad Astra.” It draws on his experiences as a student at the Kew-Forest School in Queens. Fred Trump served on the board of the private school and Donald Trump was an alumnus. The school’s principal will be a central character.

“It’s a personal story for James,” Teixeira told Variety. “You have the whole world of the Trumps dealing with that school and the students who go to that school.”

CAA Media Finance arranged the financing for the film and will represent the sales rights at the Cannes Film Festival. Casting is under way, with principal photography set to commence in New York early next year.

“RT Features is the best partner a director could ask for — they’ve got great taste, and they know how to support the filmmaker; I’m thrilled to be working with them again,” Gray said in a statement.

Gray’s recent work includes the upcoming “Ad Astra,” a big-budget studio picture with Brad Pitt that will debut next fall, as well as the period adventure “The Lost City of Z.” But his early work such as “Little Odessa” and “We Own the Night” was often semi-autobiographical and drew on his life in the outer boroughs.

“James is back in the independent world with this film,” said Teixeira.

Before segueing to “Armageddon Times,” Gray will next direct “I Am Pilgrim” for Matthew Vaughn’s Marv Films and MGM. Gray and RT Features are represented by CAA.

RT Features is premiering three films during Cannes this year: Danielle Lessovitz’s “Port Authority” and Karim Aïnouz’s “Invisible Life” in Un Certain Regard, and Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse,” starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, in Directors Fortnight. The company’s credits include “The Witch” and “Call Me by Your Name.”

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