Barbara Walters is making a return to TV. But this time, an actress will be playing her.
“Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of ‘The View,” the New York Times best-selling book about the behind-the-scenes drama at the ABC daytime talk show, has sold its screen rights to Erik Feig’s media company PictureStart.
The project will be adapted into a TV miniseries. “Ladies Who Punch,” which came out in 2019 from St. Martin’s Press, became a sensation on social media, with repeated mentions by Andy Cohen, Howard Stern and Wendy Williams, among others.
“Ladies Who Punch” is written by Variety’s New York Bureau Chief Ramin Setoodeh based on more than 150 interviews. The non-fiction book chronicles the backstage workings at “The View,” the program created by Barbara Walters in 1997 as a platform for women to discuss politics and pop culture.
But one of the unintended consequences of the show, which was meant to be a bastion for feminism, was that it created a decades-long power struggle for control between Walters and her famous surrogate daughters – including Rosie O’Donnell, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Star Jones.
In 2006, prior to an interview with Hillary Clinton, O’Donnell roasted Donald Trump for his sexist treatment of women and his finances. That led to a bitter feud between her and the real estate mogul, which continued through Trump’s 2016 presidential run. It also sparked tensions backstage between Walters and O’Donnell.
“It started as a bet nobody thought would ever work, but when icon Barbara Walters created ‘The View’ 23 years ago, she also began a conversation that has not ceased in breaking ground, pulling in audiences and guests around the world and remaining a cultural juggernaut,” said Ryan Lindenberg, PictureStart’s executive VP of production. “Ramin’s amazing book is the perfect fodder for an addictive, juicy, wickedly smart and provocative series that will have viewers on the edge of their seats, wanting more.”
The TV series will cast A-list actresses to play Walters and her co-hosts. One of themes of “Ladies Who Punch” is what it means to “have a voice” at the table as a woman in the entertainment industry. Walters retired from the program in 2014, but even now, in its 23rd season, “The View” is having a ratings surge on ABC.
Erik Feig, the former head of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, launched PictureStart in 2019 as a media company focused on creating, co-financing and producing “discovery of voice” content across all platforms. Feig and Lindenberg will executive produce “Ladies Who Punch.”
The deal was negotiated by Heller Group for PictureStart and Alice Lawson at Gersh Agency on behalf of the author.