Blumhouse Productions, Cohen Media Group (CMG), and Film4 have today announced a massive team-up: a big screen adaption of John Williams’ novel “Stoner” that will pair up Oscar-winning actor Casey Affleck (in the title role) and multiple BAFTA-winning director Joe Wright, aided by a Andrew Bovell-penned screenplay. Based on Williams’ 1965 novel, the film will follow “the hardscrabble life of William Stoner, a dirt-poor farmer turned academic, who emerges as an unlikely existential hero while making his way through the first half of the 20th century.”
While Williams first published the book in the mid-sixties, but reissues by both Vintage and New York Review Books Classics in the early aughts helped propel it to the admiration that previously eluded it (the book sold just 2,000 copies in its first run, and went out of print a year later). Blumhouse optioned the book in 2011.
Jason Blum (Blumhouse), Charles S. Cohen (CMG), and Daniel Battsek (Film4) are producing the film, with Ethan Hawke serving as executive producer. Battsek and Blum brought the project to Film4 for development during Battsek’s time as President of CMG, so he retains a producer credit on this one occasion, on what has reportedly “long been a passion project of his.”
“Because the novel is so beautiful but not well-known, fans of ‘Stoner’ feel like they’re in a secret club. I’m so excited that Casey, Joe and Andrew have come aboard to help expand this club’s membership,” commented Jason Blum in an official statement. “This quintessentially American work is being brought to the screen by a terrific international team and we’re confident their combined perspectives will add rich layers to this moving story.”
“Stoner” is compelled by two seemingly warring themes: work (as it follows the eponymous main character as he rises from farm boy to college professor, continually finding faith and inspiration in his work) and love (Stoner is a bit of a sucker for it, and it leads him into continued trauma and disappointment), which should make for a rich film telling.
Affleck is just coming off his Oscar win for “Manchester by the Sea,” while Wright is currently mired in awards season, having just premiered his lauded Winston Churchill biopic at Telluride this past weekend. Bovell is best known for his adaptations of “Lantana” (form his own play) and John le Carré’s “A Most Wanted Man.”