Just five months after the indie-smash success of the summer 2006 Fox Searchlight film, "Little Miss Sunshine" -- the picture was nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture and won two -- directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris announced their potential follow-up project, a bigscreen adaptation of Tom Perrotta's sex-ed novel "The Abstinence Teacher." Published in 2007, the novel revolves around a divorced sex ed teacher in middle America who is at odds with the town's more conservative groups. At the same time, she finds herself falling for her daughter's born-again soccer coach.
Fast forward four years later to 2010 and the project obviously still hasn't surfaced and one presumes part of the problem was the film was a Warner Independent Pictures project and that indie division shuttered in 2008 (and/or it's just one of those projects that has been gestating for a long time).
But it appears the film is coming back to life. In the pages of this week's Production Weekly, the project is listed once more with the same 'Sunshine' producers (Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, Polly Johnsen) and more importantly, two marquee actors attached in Sandra Bullock and Steve Carell.
That's obviously more than enough star wattage to revive this seemingly dormant film, though it's still apparently in development. The author Perrotta, who also co-adapted his own novel "Little Children" was the original screenwriter attached back in 2006 is still listed as the writer as well (Perrota also wrote the novel, "Election" which Alexander Payne adapted for the screen in 1999; and the 'Sunshine' producers also shepherded it and 'Children'; there's a longtime working relationship here). Here's the PWeekly synopsis:
Stonewood Heights is the perfect place to raise kids. It’s got the proverbial good schools, solid values and a healthy real estate market. It’s the kind of place where parents are involved in their children’s lives, where no opportunity for enrichment goes unexplored. Ruth Ramsey (Bullock we presume) is the human sexuality teacher at the local high school. She believes that "pleasure is good, shame is bad, and knowledge is power." Ruth’s younger daughter’s soccer coach is Tim Mason (again, we presume Carell), a former stoner and rocker whose response to hitting rock bottom was to reach out and be saved. Tim belongs to The Tabernacle, an evangelical Christian church that doesn’t approve of Ruth’s style of teaching. And Ruth in turn doesn’t applaud The Tabernacle’s mission to take its message outside its doors. Adversaries in a small-town culture war, Ruth and Tim instinctively mistrust each other. But when a controversy on the soccer field pushes the two of them to actually talk to each other, they are forced to take each other at something other than face value.So does that mean that project is next? Probably not, earlier this year, Dayton & Faris' newest project "Will," was announced based off a script penned by Demetri Martin which was set to star Zach Galifianakis and Paul Rudd (and sounding like a almost Michel Gondry-like conceptual comedy about destiny). The producers are two guys named Adam McKay and Will Ferrell.
Later in the year, the film hit a minor snag which we neglected to report because it seemed like unnecessary drama, but the story went like this: location scouting people we knew were working on the film and then all of a sudden they were out of work. Evidently a Paramount executive was unhappy with the most recent revisions at the time (this was a few months ago) which caused some delays.
However, in a recent interview with THR, McKay said, "['Will'] looks like it’s finally got financing, so that should go." Let's hope both come to pass. Did you know that "Little Miss Sunshine grossed $100 million worldwide off an $8 million dollar budget? C'mon, studios. You're really going to make people who have achieved such a feat wait five years in between feature-length films?