Joey King and Abby Quinn star as sisters working in a radium factory who discover that the luminous material is lethally radioactive in the first trailer for Radium Girls, due in theaters April 3. Produced by Lily Tomlin and directed by Oscar-nominated producer Lydia Dean Pilcher and Ginny Mohler, the film is a dramatized account of the real-life scandal surrounding the United States Radium and the Radium Dial Corporations, which knowingly exposed their workers to highly radioactive material in the early 20th century.
King and Quinn play Bessie and Jo respectively, two sisters who paint watch faces with radium paint for American Radium (a fictionalized amalgamation of U.S. Radium and Radium Dial). The practice was common at the time, thanks to the misconception that radium was both safe and also beneficial to a person’s health. (In addition to making glow-in-the-dark watch faces, radium was also found in makeup, toothpaste, food, and water.) When Jo becomes sick with a mysterious illness, Bessie becomes determined to discover the cause. The sisters learn that Jo is deteriorating due to radiation sickness caused by exposure to radium, and that American Radium lied to all of its workers about the material’s safety.
It’s a fascinating part of history that hasn’t been explored much in pop culture, and King, fresh off her Golden Globe nomination for The Act, continues to demonstrate that she is a talent to watch. Check out the trailer and the official synopsis below. Radium Girls hits theaters April 3.
Based on true events set in 1928, in New Jersey, teenage sisters, Bessie and Jo, dream of faraway places as the paint glow-in-the-dark watch dials at the American Radium Factory. When Jo loses a tooth, Bessie’s world turns upside down as the mystery of Jo’s disease slowly unravels. Bessie befriends two young activists and in a radical coming of age, she exposes a corporate scandal. Bessie and the “Radium Girls” file a lawsuit against American Radium. This notorious case ultimately led to a lasting impact in the area of workplace health and safety as well as the study of radioactivity.