I read Ezra Marcus and James D. Walsh‘s disturbing New York Magazine article The Stolen Kids of Sarah Lawrence earlier this week and promptly tweeted, “this smells like a Sundance movie.” Sure enough, Hollywood also took notice, as Mark Wahlberg and Jason Blum have teamed up to produce an adaptation of the story — which is pretty crazy.
The story is about a man named Larry Ray who gets out of prison (for securities fraud and alleged domestic abuse) and moves into his daughter’s dorm at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. His daughter’s friends and roommates loved hearing his stories about his time as a CIA operative, but it wasn’t long before Ray began exerting greater and greater control over the impressionable students, manipulating them into uncomfortable sexual situations and, ultimately, turning them against their own parents in some cases. Some still bare the scars of his abusive influence.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, which broke the news about Wahlberg and Blum, the producers have yet to decide whether to adapt the article for film or television, as it could also make for a fascinating limited series, a la Blumhouse’s own HBO hit The Jinx. If they go the movie route, Wahlberg would star as Ray, though I’d personally like to see my fellow New England Patriots fan head to TV and star in his first scripted series. Either way, whoever plays Ray will have a hell of an opportunity on their hands, as this part seems tailor-made for awards consideration.
The idea of a sinister figure infiltrating a group of students at a quiet college is a great premise, especially in the hands of Blumhouse. I keep thinking about movies like Needful Things and Ex Drummer, about mysterious men who come to town, screw with people, and leave devastation in their wake, and that’s how I imagine this movie working. Cults have changed since the days of the Peoples Temple, and I feel like people barely recognize when an organization they’re a part of starts to become one. I’ve had friends who felt like members of a certain group, only to come to the realization years later that it was an unhealthy association that was taking advantage of them, making them do things they didn’t really want to do. As for Ray, he seemed to be able to pick out those susceptible students, cast a spell over them, and keep them under it. I’ll be watching this project with great fascination, just as I read the article.
Wahlberg’s Closest to the Hole partner Stephen Levinson and New York’s Scoop Wasserstein are also aboard as producers, and the next step will see them choose a direction and them hire a writer. Wahlberg and Levinson recently produced Instant Family, while Blum produced Jordan Peele‘s horror hit Us. Blumhouse’s next release is the Octavia Spencer movie Ma, which hits theaters on May 31.