David O. Selznick’s life, via Ben Stiller and ‘The Messenger’

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EXCLUSIVE: Few personalities dominated Hollywood with such larger-than-life brashness as David O. Selznick. A son of a high-flying silent-film producer, Selznick produced some of the biggest hits of Tinseltown’s golden era -- most notably, of course, ‘Gone With the Wind’ -- while having a series of tumultuous Hollywood relationships.

Now his story could be packaged for a modern audience.

HBO and ‘The Messenger’ director Oren Moverman are developing a film based on Selznick’s life, according to a person familiar with the project who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to talk about it publicly. Ben Stiller, the source added, is executive producing the film and has met several times with both the network and with Moverman, eager to star as the Hollywood icon.

Bolstering the project’s pedigree: the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies wrote an earlier draft of the script; Moverman then came on board to write a new draft, which he’s completed, and develop it further at the network.

The as-yet untitled project will be based in part on Selznick’s own correspondence and will be executive produced by Selznick’s son Daniel, as well as Stiller, his production partner Stuart Cornfeld and Paula Morgan.


TV and film companies have shown an interest in the entertainment period during which Selznick was active, though mostly via the colorful Orson Welles (Tim Robbins’ ‘Cradle Will Rock’ in 1999 and Richard Linklater’s ‘Me and Orson Welles’ in 2010). But Selznick offers plenty of fodder in his own right.

The creative force behind films such as ‘Wind,’ the 1937 version of ‘A Star Is Born’ and ‘The Third Man,’ Selznick also produced Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 best picture winner ‘Rebecca,’ effectively launching the suspense auteur’s Hollywood career. Known as a ladies man , Selznick also had hot-button marriages to the likes of Irene Gladys Mayer (daughter of Louis, and Daniel Selznick’s mother) and the actress Jennifer Jones.

It remains an open question whether Moverman, who emerged on the scene as a screenwriter of indie-film faves like ‘Jesus’ Son’ but has recently moved to directing, will helm the Selznick film as well; he’s currently attached but no formal commitment has been made. Moverman most recently directed the dirty-cop drama ‘Rampart,’ which premiered at this year’s Toronto international Film Festival, and has several other writing projects in the works, including movies about musicians Brian Wilson and Kurt Cobain. An HBO spokeswoman declined to comment on the Selznick project.

Would Stiller make a good Selznick? He’s been known for romantic-comedy and family-adventures. But he’s also a producer, and he’s starred as Derek Zoolander. It doesn’t get more larger-than-life than that.


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-- Steven Zeitchik