Matthew López, the acclaimed playwright behind “The Inheritance,” will bring the story of legendary dramatist Tennessee Williams to the big screen for Searchlight Pictures.
López will pen a feature film adaptation of the novel “Leading Men,” which centers on the “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” scribe and his longtime partner Frank Merlo. The film is produced by Luca Guadagnino and Peter Spears, who previously teamed for “Call Me By Your Name.” This is Spears’ second Searchlight project, after Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland,” which won the Venice Golden Lion and TIFF’s people’s choice award. There is currently no director attached to the project.
The novel by Christopher Castellani tells the tale of the romantic partnership between Williams and Merlo, touted in a synopsis of the film as “one of the most creatively inspiring love stories of the twentieth century.”
Already famous for penning “The Glass Menagerie,” Williams met Merlo (an occasional actor and a World War II naval veteran) in the late 1940s, embarking on a passionate — and often tumultuous — love affair, ending with Merlo’s death from lung cancer in 1963. Set in 1950s Italy and New York, the film “explores the burden of fame and the complex negotiations of life in the shadows of greatness and ambition, all through the eyes of the muse who inspired one of America’s foremost playwrights.”
Searchlight’s senior vice president of production and acquisitions Katie Goodson-Thomas, vice president of production Taylor Friedman and creative director Pete Spencer will represent the studio on the film.
News of the film adaptation comes after López’s play “The Inheritance” earned eleven nominations, including best play, at the 74th annual Tony Awards. The play is a two-part, seven-hour opus that follows a group of younger gay men living in New York City, as they debate what they owe to the generations that came before them. Loosely inspired by E.M. Forster’s novel “Howards End,” “The Inheritance” premiered at the Young Vic in London in 2018, going on to win four Olivier awards. The play continued to earn rave reviews during its Broadway run in 2019, collecting five Drama Desk Awards, a Drama League award and a GLAAD Media Award.
López is repped by Grandview and CryBaby Media. Guadagnino is repped by WME and managed by Range Media Partners. Spears is repped by UTA.