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There are few American organizations more infamous than the Westboro Baptist Church, a hate group that has been known for terrorizing individuals and protesting funerals. Now the story of how one of the leaders of the Church managed to reform and escape is coming to the big screen, courtesy of big names like Reese Witherspoon, Marc Webb, and Nicholas Hornby.
Conde Nast Entertainment has issued a press release announcing the start of development on This Above All - a film that will tell the true story of former Westboro Baptist Church member Megan Phelps-Roper, the granddaughter of the WBC's original founder. The film will be based on a November 2015 article that journalist Adrian Chen wrote for The New Yorker (titled "Conversion Via Twitter"), as well as Phelps-Roper's own upcoming memoir. Nick Hornby will be taking care of screenplay duties, Marc Webb is attached to direct, and Reese Witherspoon is set to produce alongside Conde Nast, River Road, Bruna Papandrea, and Webb.
Megan Phelps-Roper grew up as the granddaughter of Fred Phelps, who has been using the Westboro Baptist Church to espouse hate speech against LGBTQ individuals, Catholics, Muslims and other groups since the early 1990s. While Phelps-Roper spent most of her life following the same values as her family, her experience interacting with individuals over social media wound up having an immense impact on the way she looked at the world. She realized that she could no longer follow the church's teachings, and was ultimately disowned by her family.
While Reese Witherspoon originally got into the producer game back when she did Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde back in 2003, she has put a lot more focus into that part of her career in recent years. This really began with the duo of Wild and Gone Girl in 2014, but since then she has also produced the comedyHot Pursuit and the HBO series Big Little Lies. In addition to This Above All, she is also attached to make the upcoming Tinkerbell movie, Todd Haynes's untitled Peggy Lee project, and an adaptation of Liane Moriarty's novel Truly Madly Guilty.
As for Marc Webb, the director has been keeping busy recently - notably after taking a hiatus from the film world following The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This year he delivered both Gifted and The Only Living Boy In New York to theaters, and it seems that he's not ready to slow down any time soon. This will be his first time working with Nick Hornby, who is better known for his work as a novelest (About A Boy, High Fidelity), but does have some screenwriting experience under his belt courtesy of 2009's An Education and the previously-mentioned Wild with Reese Witherspoon.
This Above All doesn't have a release date yet, nor a scheduled start for production, so it's unclear at this time exactly when we can expect it to arrive. That being said, we'll be keeping a close eye on it, as it sounds like it could be an awards-contender in whatever year in which it winds up being released.