NEW YORK CITY — Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films and Sam Mendes’ Neal Street Productions are partnering to produce the feature film based on Joseph O’Neill’s novel Netherland for Focus Features. Mr. Mendes and partner Pippa Harris are producers for Neal Street, and Ms. Winfrey and company president Kate Forte are producers for Harpo, which optioned the novel last year upon publication. Focus will hold worldwide rights to Netherland. Focus CEO James Schamus made the announcement today.
Academy Award-winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) is scripting the adaptation, which is being developed with Mr. Mendes as a potential director. Mr. Mendes won the Best Director Oscar® for American Beauty.
Neal Street recently signed a two-year first-look deal with Focus Features. Focus president of production John Lyons and senior vice president, international production Teresa Moneo are overseeing all Neal Street projects, including Netherland.
Mr. O’Neill received the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for Netherland, which is his third novel (following This Is the Life and The Breezes). Mr. Hampton was last year again an Academy-Award nominee, for his screenplay adaptation of Focus’ Atonement. In Netherland, set in early 21st-century New York City, a lonely expatriate finds himself drawn to the sport of cricket, forming an unlikely friendship and discovering a rich world of immigrant culture previously unknown to him.
Mr. Schamus said, “We’re so glad to have Christopher join our creative partnership with Harpo and Neal Street, rendering an extraordinary gathering of talents even more so. This project’s emotional power has resonated with us all.”
Harpo Films, Inc. produces feature films and, through an exclusive deal with HBO, scripted television programming. Recent produced features have garnered the highest industry honors for quality, including The Great Debaters, directed by and starring Denzel Washington, which received a Golden Globe® nomination for Best Motion Picture (Drama). Telefilms include the multiple Emmy Award®-winner Tuesdays with Morrie, as well as Their Eyes Were Watching God, starring Halle Berry.
Harpo Productions, Inc. produces the number-one-rated, award-winning The Oprah Winfrey Show; creates and develops original TV programming for primetime, syndication and cable television; and operates Oprah.com (www.oprah.com), a premier lifestyle website. Harpo Print, LLC and Hearst Magazines publish the monthly O, The Oprah Magazine publication.
Harpo Radio, Inc. produces Oprah Radio (XM channel 156, Sirius channel 195 as part of its “Best of XM” package) on Sirius XM Radio. A joint venture between Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, a multi-platform company, will debut in 2010 in more than 70 million homes, on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel.
Founded in 2003 by Sam Mendes, Caro Newling, and Pippa Harris, Neal Street Productions has enjoyed a string of screen successes, including Revolutionary Road, Starter For Ten, Jarhead, Things We Lost in the Fire, and Focus’ Away We Go (directed by Mr. Mendes). Neal Street is also prolific in the theater world, having received a total of 15 Tony nominations this past spring for Shrek The Musical and Mary Stuart. Neal Street Theatricals was recently represented on the London stage by Mr. Mendes’ Bridge Project – a double bill of The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard at The Old Vic.
Focus Features and Focus Features International (FFI) (www.filminfocus.com) together comprise a singular global company, dedicated to producing, acquiring, financing, selling, and distributing original and daring films from emerging and established filmmakers – films that challenge mainstream moviegoers to embrace and enjoy voices and visions from around the world. The company’s flexible and nuanced approach to distribution allows it to support a wide range of films, from those geared to a single local market to worldwide hits. The company operates as Focus Features domestically, and as Focus Features International overseas.
Current and upcoming Focus Features movies include Shane Acker’s animated fantasy epic 9, starring Elijah Wood and Jennifer Connelly and produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov; writer/director Richard Curtis’ rock and roll comedy Pirate Radio; the unique nonfiction feature Babies, directed by Thomas Balmès; Greenberg, the new film from writer/director Noah Baumbach, starring Ben Stiller; Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald’s Roman epic adventure The Eagle of the Ninth, starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, and Mark Strong; Academy Award-winning writer/director Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere; Taking Woodstock, the new film from Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee; and Academy Award-winning writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s A Serious Man, which world-premiered last weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Focus Features and Focus Features International are part of NBC Universal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Formed in May 2004 through the combining of NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC Universal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBC Universal is 80 percent owned by General Electric and 20 percent owned by Vivendi.