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'True Story' to Star Hill & Franco; Plan B Gets New Regency to Finance

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood March 29, 2012 at 4:04PM

New Regency will finance Plan B's production of "True Story," which will star overexposed James Franco and Brad Pitt co-star Jonah Hill. His role in Plan B's "Moneyball" launched him into the big leagues, along with current hit "21 Jump Street." Rupert Goold will make his feature directing debut with Dave Kajganich's adaptation of the well-reviewed truth-is-stranger-than-fiction Michael Finkel memoir.
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true story, franco and hill

New Regency will finance Plan B's production of "True Story," which will star overexposed James Franco and Brad Pitt co-star Jonah Hill. His role in Plan B's "Moneyball" launched him into the big leagues, along with current hit "21 Jump Street." Rupert Goold will make his feature directing debut with Dave Kajganich's adaptation of the well-reviewed truth-is-stranger-than-fiction Michael Finkel memoir.

The true story goes like this: Disgraced NYT journalist Finkel (Hill) has his identity stolen by Christian Franco (Franco), who is accused of murdering his family. Once caught, Franco will only speak to Finkel. Production is slated for July, with Twentieth Century Fox on board to release the film.

Here's a detailed synopsis from Publisher's Weekly, which called the memoir "hypnotically absorbing":

In 2001, Finkel fabricated portions of an article he wrote for the New York Times Magazine. Caught and fired, he retreated to his Montana home, only to learn that a recently arrested suspected mass murderer had adopted his identity while on the run in Mexico. In this astute and hypnotically absorbing memoir, Finkel recounts his subsequent relationship with the accused, Christian Longo, and recreates not only Longo's crimes and coverups but also his own. In doing so, he offers a startling meditation on truth and deceit and the ease with which we can slip from one to the other.

The narrative consists of three expertly interwoven strands. One details the decision by Finkel, under severe pressure, to lie within the Times article—ironic since the piece aimed to debunk falsehoods about rampant slavery in Africa's chocolate trade—and explores the personal consequences (loss of credibility, ensuing despair) of that decision. The second, longer strand traces Longo's life, marked by incessant lying and petty cheating, and the events leading up to the slayings of his wife and children. The third narrative strand covers Finkel's increasingly involved ties to Longo, as the two share confidences (and also lies of omission and commission) via meetings, phone calls and hundreds of pages of letters, leading up to Longo's trial and a final flurry of deceit by which Longo attempts to offload his guilt.

Many will compare this mea culpa to those of Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass, but where those disgraced journalists led readers into halls of mirrors, Finkel's creation is all windows. There are, notably, no excuses offered, only explanations, and there's no fuzzy boundary between truth and deceit: a lie is a lie. Because of Finkel's past transgression, it's understandable that some will question if all that's here is true; only Finkel can know for sure, but there's a burning sincerity (and beautifully modulated writing) on every page, sufficient to convince most that this brilliant blend of true-crime and memoir does live up to its bald title.

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