George Clooney is a socially and politically active member of Hollywood. So it should surprise nobody that for his return to television – not on camera but in a producing role – he would choose a heady subject.
Clooney and his producing partner Grant Heslov (The Monuments Men, Argo) are backing a project called America’s Most Admired Lawbreaker under their Smokehouse Pictures banner. They’ve signed a first-look deal with Sonar Entertainment that reportedly folds in Making a Murderer creators Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos as writer/directors, along with Nicki Paluga (Perception, Legend of the Seeker).
The project stems from a serialized feature report by journalist Steven Brill for Huffington Post’s long-form Highline section. The 2015 series profiled how Johnson & Johnson marketed the psychiatric drug Risperdal as a better alternative to Haldol, when in fact it was just more profitable for the company, ignoring FDA warnings against giving the drug to children or the elderly.
Highline, whose motto is “stories that stay with you” has also reported on a Maryland statute that allowed for retrial and release of over 200 prisoners, and from inside the campaigns that lost to Donald Trump. Still, the long-form digital written format hasn’t caught on with the popularity of NPR’s Serial or even This American Life. Smokehouse may be able to change that.
Deadline reports that the Smokehouse deal will provide for the creators to produce drama and comedy series for cable and streaming channels. They’re currently promoting Ms., an HBO miniseries about Gloria Steinem’s Ms Magazine, and (the rather poorly titled) The Studio for Showtime, about a 1990s film studio.
Last month they optioned Jonathan Eig’s nonfiction book The Birth of the Pill which tells the story of four people who pushed for today’s most popular form of birth control.
Smokehouse is behind many of the films that Clooney has starred in over the last decade including The Men Who Stare at Goats, The Ides of March, The Monuments Men, Leatherheads, and more. Longtime friends Clooney and Heslov were nominated for best original screenplay for Good Night, and Good Luck and The Ides of March.
Sonar Entertianment, as is common with production companies, has existed previously under the names Cabin Fever Entertainment, Hallmark Entertainment, and RHI Entertainment, named for founder Robert Halmi. In this latest iteration they’ve produced South of Hell, Taboo, and The Shannara Chronicles. Recently they’ve also signed deals with Ridley Scott’s Scott-Free UK and StoryBy Entertainment.