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With films like Sideways, The Descendants, and Nebraska, director Alexander Payne has proven himself a master at deftly balancing comedy and drama in his chosen projects. Now, if all goes according to plan, it looks like he has found yet another vehicle to allow him to do what he does best. That's because he is now in talks to helm a romantic comedy inspired by a true story about a woman who won the Texas State Lottery an impressive four times.
The new project is titled Septillion to One, and while Payne is not officially attached just yet, The Wrap says that the film has definitely caught his eye. The script he would be working from is written by Adam R. Perlman and Graham Sack, and described as "a cross between Silver Linings Playbook and Ocean’s 11." The story centers on an ambitious former FBI agent working in the fraud department of the Texas State Lotto. When he discovers that a young woman has managed to win a jackpot three times - and calculates that the odds of this happening is over a billion to one - he begins an investigation. Of course, as this is a romantic comedy, the guy ultimately can't resist his suspects charms.
The real story that inspired the film is that of Joan Ginther, who first gained notoriety back in 2011 after winning four multi-million dollar jackpots and more than $20 million in prizes. More than just lucky, Ginther has a PhD in statistics from Stanford, and it seems was able to find a pattern in scratch-off tickets.
Exciting as the prospect of Alexander Payne directing Septillion to One is, there is one potential issue that may wind up preventing him from being a part of its development. Oddlot Entertainment, which won the rights to the spec script in an auction, wants to fast track the movie due to its thin slate, and right now Payne is in the midst of developing a different project - specifically the strange comedy Downsizing starring Matt Damon and Reese Witherspoon.
I definitely would like to see Alexander Payne take on this project, as I think that his personal sensibilities would mesh extremely well with the story being told. Hopefully Oddlot Entertainment will be willing to wait for him, and while it might mean not seeing the finished result for a few years, it still has the potential to be really fantastic. And if that doesn't work out, maybe the studio can try and wrangle the trio of David O. Russell, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence back together for this one, because I could see them handling the material in an equally great, albeit completely different kind of way. Or maybe Payne can work with Cooper and Lawrence, and create something entirely new.