J.D. Vance‘s best-selling, zeitgeist dominating, hot-take inspiring Hillbilly Elegy is getting a film adaptation at Netflix this year, with Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard directing and an outstanding cast that includes Glenn Close and Amy Adams. And Netflix’s is planning a theatrical run for the film in addition to the streaming debut, a sure sign the streamer is considering the pic for awards contention. With Howard on-site at Sundance Film Festival for his California wildfire documentary Rebuilding Paradise, Collider’s Steve Weintraub sat down for a wide-ranging interview with the filmmaker, and took the opportunity to get some updates about what we can expect from his adaptation, and when we might see it.
Howard teed up his interest in the story:
“It’s a memoir. Written by J.D. Vance. It was a best seller for nearly two years, and its about a guy from the rust bel in Ohio whose family came from Appalachia, Jackson, Kentucky. And it’s the sort of collision between his chaotic childhood and the way in which that informed his life and his thinking and his potential. Which was ultimately, he graduated from Yale Law School before he wrote this book, and he’s gone on to do other things.”
But beyond the best-seller appeal, the filmmaker explained he felt a close connection to the “powerful” story of self-actualization.
“It’s a story of transformation and while it focuses on that culture, a group of people that I really really relate to given my own family background and history, and my wife’s as well, it really is about being your best self, finding strength in your heritage, and the lessons that you learn, but also recognizing the hurdles that some of that might represent as well, and learning how to grow beyond it. It’s a self-actualization story. It’s powerful.”
Howard also sang the praises of his cast, calling Close “stunning” and saying Adams “just kills it. “It was just a really great performance opportunity,” Howard said. “Probably the best one I’ve had in that regard since Frost/Nixon or before.”
Howard doesn’t have a release date for the film yet, but he did offer an update on where he’s at in post-production: in short, editing and headed to pickups.
“I just finished shooting, editing now. As I’ve been doing Rebuilding Paradise, I’ve been sort of dividing time between the Hillbilly Elegy editing room. We’ve got a few pickups to do, and then we’ll see.”
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