Matthew Heineman to Direct Wildfire Drama ‘Paradise’ for Focus Features

     July 9, 2019


Fire. It’s a powerful thing. A destructive thing. A blessing from the Gods, sure, but a scary one nonetheless. Fire is something I have first-hand experience with. When I was 12 years old, half of my summer camp burned to the ground. It took four or five local fire departments to put the blaze out. 250 campers and counselors were sent home for the summer in early August, half of whom escaped the inferno directly. These were 19-year-old guys, possibly the least responsible people in the world, as I know first-hand, who saved dozens of younger lives. I saw the fire with my own eyes. It was a miracle that no one was killed or seriously injured. A miracle. But miracles do happen… as one did in the middle of the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. They make movies out of miracles, and this sounds like a good, albeit very recent one.

Focus Features has tapped Oscar-nominated filmmaker Matthew Heineman to write and direct a drama titled Paradise about the inferno, which destroyed the small town of Paradise, California. The studio announced that Heineman will also produce the film alongside Marty Bowen of Temple Hill, which recently produced First Man, The Hate U Give and Love, Simon. Former Focus executive Josh McLaughlin will serve as an executive producer on the project.

According to Focus, Paradise will center on Heather Roebuck, who gave birth via C-section minutes before her hospital became engulfed by flames. Powerless to move her legs and separated from her newborn and fiancé, Roebuck embarked on a harrowing journey through the town with the aid of a group of EMTs and other emergency personnel. The group attempted to reunite Roebuck with her family and soon found themselves fighting for their lives.”

Roebuck lived to tell the tale, as her Facebook post about the harrowing ordeal went viral. Focus quickly optioned her life rights, as well as those for her fiancé Bret Harles and their children, as well as the Butte County emergency medical workers who saved her life by becoming impromptu firefighters.

“For me, the film examines the human connections ordinary people make in extraordinary circumstances,” Heineman said in a statement. “Heather’s journey of inner strength in the face of unparalleled and unexpected adversity is one of the most exciting and visceral stories that I’ve ever encountered.”

Heineman earned an Oscar nomination for his 2015 documentary Cartel Land, and he most recently directed A Private War, which featured an astounding turn from Rosamund Pike as war photographer Marie Colvin. He also directed the acclaimed City of Ghosts and The Trade. He’s represented by CAA and Cinetic Media. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news.


Image via Aviron Pictures


Image via Aviron Pictures

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