VARIETY – “CODA” star Emilia Jones will portray whistleblower Reality Winner in “Winner,” a dark-comedy biopic from director Susanna Fogel.
Winner, a former U.S. Air Force member and NSA contractor, served in prison after she leaked an intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Her five and a half years behind bars is the longest sentence ever given to someone charged under the Espionage Act for leaking a government document.
Described as a “fresh take on the traditional whistleblower thriller,” the coming-of-age story “Winner” is based on Kerry Howley’s 2017 New York Magazine feature that portrays a brilliant and young misfit from Texas who finds her morals challenged while serving in the U.S. Air Force and working as a NSA contractor.
“As a filmmaker, I strive to tell stories that interrogate the world we live in and the systems that are broken in it. But in a fun way,” said Fogel, whose credits include “Booksmart” and “The Spy Who Dumped Me.”
Fogel continued, “Reality Winner is the perfect heroine for a film that meditates on ideas of personal power, morality, and finding your voice. She’s a true individual: she speaks many languages, she loves her guns, she could destroy you on Twitter, and her obsession with Pikachu is unmatched. Clearly, she’s the perfect mouthpiece for a generation of people who are unique and fed up with feeling powerless. And there is no one more perfect to play her than Emilia Jones, one of the most exciting young actresses working today. I hope Reality’s story will inspire others to speak up and defend their beliefs, whatever the cost. I’m thrilled to partner with this team of artists and activists to bring this movie to life.”
Jones will star alongside Connie Britton as Reality’s mother, Zach Galifianakis as Reality’s father, Danny Ramirez as her boyfriend and Kathryn Newton as her sister.
Howley wrote the screenplay for “Winner,” which will be co-financed by ShivHans Pictures and 1Community. Amanda Phillips and Fogel will produce “Winner” with Shivani Rawat and Julie Goldstein of ShivHans Pictures, Scott Budnick and Ameet Shukla of 1Community.
Executive producers include Dani Melia, Peter Saraf, Daniel Bekerman, Connor Flanagan and Big Beach Films.
“When we first read this powerful script, we knew we wanted to help tell the story of Reality Winner. I have always been a fan of Susanna Fogel and to work with this caliber of talent to tell a female story is something we strive to do at ShivHans,” ShivHans Pictures founder and CEO Shivani Rawat said. “We are looking forward to working in partnership with our friends at 1Community to bring this story to a wide audience.”
1Community CEO Budnick added, “Our company’s mission is to find bold new takes on the most pressing issues of our time, and nothing could be more urgent than defending the ideals of democracy. Reality Winner’s story is fascinating, brave and timely. We are thrilled to join our partners ShivHans Pictures and couldn’t be more excited for Susanna Fogel’s fresh and comedic approach in bringing this story to screen.”
UTA Independent Film Group negotiated the financing and will represent the worldwide sales rights to the film.
Newton is repped by WME, Entertainment 360, Steve Warren and Huy Nguyen at Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush, KAller, Gellman, Meigs & Fox.