Celebrated writer/director Marielle Heller has lined up her first project since 2019’s Mr. Rogers biopic “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” According to a new report from Deadline, Heller will re-team with that film’s financier, Big Beach, for “Five Women,” a limited series centered on a serial sexual harasser and his effects on his female employees. Heller will direct the series, based on an episode of the NPR show “This American Life.”
The announcement of the new series arrives as the Harvey Weinstein trial deliberations are underway in New York City — and the #MeToo response that followed the outing of Weinstein as an alleged sexual predator in the fall of 2017 inspired the March 2018 episode of the podcast. “Five Women” tells the story of several disparate women connected by the boss who sexual harasses them in the workplace. The podcast and series look back and forth at who they were before and after these experiences.
Since breaking out of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival with “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” Marielle Heller has made the movies and projects she’s wanted to make. That includes last year’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood ” — which earned Tom Hanks a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination — but also 2018’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Another fact-based film, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” earned screenwriters Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, and stars Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant Actress and Supporting Actor nominations.
Back at the December 2019 SFFILM Awards Night, where she was honored with the Irving M. Levin Award for Film Direction, Marielle Heller told IndieWire, “I just don’t think I would be good at making a movie I wasn’t in love with, so it’s just my own self-preservation that I haven’t decided to make a movie I knew I couldn’t make well. I don’t want to fail and I feel a responsibility to other filmmakers, especially for other women filmmakers or non-binary filmmakers. I want to do them proud and help open doors for other people who are not getting the same opportunities as I am.” “Five Women” certainly sounds in line with Heller’s commitment to thoughtful projects that open doors for women.
Heller also serves as showrunner and executive producer through her new outfit Defiant by Nature, which has a first-look deal with Big Beach, financier of “A Beautiful Day” but also filmmaker Lulu Wang’s 2019 indie hit “The Farewell.” This is not Big Beach’s first foray into television, as the studio also backed the Elizabeth Olsen-starring Facebook Watch series “Sorry for Your Loss,” canceled in January 2020; the Starz drama “Vida,” whose season three comes April 26; and the upcoming Jean-Marc Vallée project “Gorilla and the Bird” for HBO, based on Zack McDermott’s memoir of his own mental illness.