If the beloved Fred Rogers has to come to the big screen, even if just tangentially, then we’re glad that “Little Miss Sunshine” directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are the ones to make it happen. The duo have shown ability to deliver widely appealing movies (such as the underrated “Ruby Sparks“) that are also sensitively drawn, and this material certainly seems like a good fit.
The Wrap reports that the duo will direct an adaptation of Tim Madigan’s memoir “I’m Proud of You.” Written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, who wrote the upcoming indie “The Motel Life” starring Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff, the film will follow an inattentive, jaded father and husband whose life is changed after meeting Mister Rogers. Here’s the Amazon synopsis of the book:
It began as another newspaper assignment, a celebrity profile of the children’s television icon. But in Fred Rogers, Texas journalist Tim Madigan found more than a fascinating subject. From their first meeting in 1995, at Rogers’ invitation, the two became unlikely friends, a deep and abiding relationship that lasted until Rogers’ death in 2003. In that time, Madigan found Rogers to be much more than the calm and compassionate personality of television. He was a person of unique human greatness who embodied love, compassion and wisdom his every waking moment. He was the transcendent being who guided Madigan through periods of life-threatening depression and the tragic death of a sibling and helped him heal his difficult relationship with his father. I’m Proud of You reveals Fred Rogers as a person who deserves a place among history’s greatest people. It chronicles male friendship at its finest and most powerful.
Of course, whoever fills the shoes of Mister Rogers is going to have a pretty big job ahead of them, and this could skew into the sentimental pretty easily, but hopefully the script is nuanced and we trust the directors to do it right. Peter Saraf and Marc Turtletaub’s Big Beach Films are financing the film, but no word yet when it might roll. But until then, here’s a clip of from 1969 of Fred Rogers defending funding for public broadcasting in front of the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications and completing owning the room.