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Exclusive: Lisa Cholodenko Confirms She'll Direct 'The Abstinence Teacher' & Heads Into The 'Wild' With Reese Witherspoon

The Playlist By Jen Vineyard | The Playlist May 11, 2012 at 5:44PM

Director Lisa Cholodenko recently sat down with The Playlist moments before her panel with fellow alum Shari Springer Berman and Nicole Holofcener at the Columbia University Film Festival this week to debate the glass ceiling and how it affects making their films -- during the course of which, Cholodenko let slip a couple of her yet-to-be announced projects among her other updates.
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Lisa Cholodenko

Director Lisa Cholodenko recently sat down with The Playlist moments before her panel with fellow alum Shari Springer Berman and Nicole Holofcener at the Columbia University Film Festival this week, to debate the glass ceiling and how it affects making their films -- during the course of which, Cholodenko let slip a couple of her yet-to-be announced projects among her other updates.

First up, the director and co-writer of "The Kids Are All Right" confirmed that she's taking over the adaptation of Tom Perrotta's book "The Abstinence Teacher," which at one point was to be directed by "Little Miss Sunshine" team Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, with Steve Carell and Sandra Bullock circling roles. Previous Perotta adaptations include "Little Children" and "Election" (which starred Reese Witherspoon).

Witherspoon is also slated to produce and star in one of Cholodenko's other new projects, an adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's memoir of her 1,100-mile solo hike in the wake of personal tragedy, "Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail."

"The author sent it to Reese, going, 'I can't imagine who else would do this,'" Cholodenko said. "And then I sniffed around it, without realizing 'Wild' had already been given to her [to produce], and then I somehow got involved in it, and now I'm doing that." Chodolenko will write and direct, while Strayed confirmed over email that she's acting as a resource and a consultant as the script is developed, and that she will be an associate producer on the film as well.

While it remains unclear whether Carell would still be attached to "The Abstinence Teacher," he is on board the more family-friendly of Cholodenko's next films, the adaptation of Judith Viorst's classic kid's book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." "He just kind of has a nutty schedule," the director said, "so that's what we're trying to figure out, the when and where." As well as the co-stars. "It's at a studio, so it's getting the right adult cast attached."

In the meantime, Cholodenko is doing "a couple of things for HBO," including writing a pilot for the TV version of "The Kids Are All Right," which would act as both a prequel and a sequel for the Best Picture Nominee. Cholodenko hopes the concept will intrigue the original cast enough to reprise their roles. "You never know!" she said. "I'm just writing it as if they're going to do it, because that makes it easier to write it."

Granted, some of the cast might not be in the right age range anymore -- something Josh Hutcherson recently pointed out. Plus he might be a tad busy with "The Hunger Games" franchise, just as Mark Ruffalo might have too much work on his plate. "Nobody's offered me that yet," he told me recently. "I think I'd probably let someone else do that one at this point. But who knows? When that happens, I might want that job. But right now, I've got a full plate -- because of that. The sad irony is, I won't be able to do the HBO 'The Kids Are All Right' because the movie 'The Kids Are All Right' has made me unavailable!"

In response, Cholodenko said, laughing, "They're probably just anxious about reprising their roles! We'll see if somebody comes out of the woodwork to do it with me. If not, a new incarnation of it will be fun, too." While scripting the pilot, Cholodenko turned to her friend Holofcener for advice and feedback. "It's just very different writing episodic television," Cholodenko said, "and I was having a hard time."

"You know, you can drive yourself crazy with these things," Holofcener said. "I was a sounding board for her, I think."

"She told me, 'Take it easy, man,'" Cholodenko recalled. "And she helped me with a seminal scene. I really liked what she wrote, she had written something for HBO before, and I found her template really inspiring. So I said, 'This is what I have,' and she kind of helped me through it. She was really helpful."

"I want a credit!" Holofcener added, laughing.

This article is related to: Lisa Cholodenko, The Abstinence Teacher, The Kids Are All Right, Mark Ruffalo, Nicole Holofcener, Wild


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