David Lindsay-Abaire play ‘Good People’ aims for the big screen

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EXCLUSIVE: Few playwrights are hotter on Broadway, or in moviedom, than David Lindsay-Abaire. The ‘Rabbit Hole’ writer last month opened ‘Good People,’ a drama set in working-class Boston that’s been earning rave reviews.

Now ‘Good People’ is looking to come to the big screen -- and with its stage pedigree largely intact.


‘American Beauty’ producer Dan Jinks and Focus Features are in negotiations to develop ‘Good People’ as a film, with Lindsay-Abaire adapting his own play and stage star Frances McDormand on board to reprise her acerbic Ms. Walsh character, according to two people familiar with the project who were not authorized to talk about it publicly. A Focus Features spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

Lindsay-Abaire’s play, his first about his native Boston, traffics in themes of class and luck (particularly the bad kind).

In the Manhattan Theatre Club production, Margie Walsh is a sharp-tongued South Boston single mother of a mentally disabled daughter. Walsh dropped out of high school to care for her child and has struggled to get by ever since. When she’s fired from her minimum-wage job, she seeks out employment from a former classmate and rich yuppie (Tate Donovan) in an interaction that quickly becomes a tangled web of race and class.

Though more comedic than ‘Rabbit Hole,’ the themes echo Lindsay-Abaire’s Pullitzer-winning grieving-parent drama, in which a mother also suffers at the cruel hand of fate.

‘Good People’s’ Boston setting would take Hollywood back to a place that it has mined richly, particularly for class issues, in recent movies such as ‘The Fighter,’ ‘The Town’ and ‘The Social Network.’ The film would also reunite Jinks and Focus, who collaborated on the award-season favorite ‘Milk’ in 2008.

McDormand was last seen on the big screen in ‘Burn After Reading’ and ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ (both Focus films) and stars opposite Sean Penn in the drama ‘This Must Be the Place,’ which premieres at Cannes next month.

A movie based on a Lindsay-Abaire work is practically an instant recipe for awards: ‘Rabbit Hole’ netted Cynthia Nixon a Tony statuette on Broadway and Nicole Kidman an Oscar nomination on the big screen when the movie, also adapted by Lindsay-Abaire, was released last year.

--Steven Zeitchik