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Is Jennifer Lawrence revisiting the wilderness-mama genre with 'Glass Castle'?

April 23, 2012 |  2:27 pm

While promoting “The Hunger Games” last month, Jennifer Lawrence quipped, “I don’t know what it is with me and maternal wilderness girls. I just love 'em.…” The 21-year-old actress was referring not only to her role as Katniss Everdeen in the uber-blockbuster that has now racked up more than $350 million but also to her Academy Award-nominated part as Ree Dolly in 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.” While the films are markedly different, both feature strong female protagonists who must take on a motherly role because their parents can't fulfill their responsibilities.

That trend seems to be continuing. Not even the intensity of playing Katniss has seemed to abate the actress’ passion for the “maternal wilderness girl.” According to Deadline Hollywood this morning, Lawrence is eyeing another such part in an adaptation of journalist and gossip columnist Jeannette Walls’ best-selling memoir “The Glass Castle.”

Lionsgate declined to comment for this story, but it seems Lawrence has little fear about being typecast. “The Glass Castle” is Walls’ chronicle of her unorthodox childhood as one of four children who had to fend for themselves after their eccentric parents proved unable. The book, published in 2005, spent some 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was a favorite among many book clubs.

Paramount Pictures scooped up the movie rights to the book the year it was published via its deal with Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B but was never able to turn it into a feature film. The project went into turnaround, and producer Gil Netter (“The Blind Side,”) bought it. According to screenwriter Marti Noxon, who is just signing her deal to work on the script, Lionsgate’s president of production, Eric Feig, pounced on the project before Gill and Noxon were able to take it out as a pitch.

“We sold it before we got in the room,” Noxon said with a laugh. One source says Feig had been chasing the rights since last summer.

(Feig had luck with the “Twilight” franchise when he bought it for Summit Entertainment after Paramount put it into turnaround.)

Noxon, best known for her years on television’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” hopes to bring an outsider’s take to the work. She says she had a powerful reaction to the book and hopes to avoid the pitfalls that often hurt nonfiction pieces. “It’s a tricky book. The tendency might be to make it too sentimental because it’s about a dysfunctional family. I don’t want to lean too hard on the tragic-comic parts of her childhood.”

Walls grew up the second oldest of four children. After living like nomads among Southwest desert towns, the clan settled in a West Virginia mining town where the children were forced to support themselves, dealing with a drunken father and an “excitement-addicted” mother who found the often mundane tasks of parenthood overwhelming.

While a book like this is not a slam dunk for the studios, the success of “The Hunger Games,” “The Help” and even “Bridesmaids” should give Lionsgate a lot more confidence that a complex, female-driven narrative could work.

“I’m passionate about writing complex female heroines,” said Noxon, who most recently worked on “Glee,” “Mad Men” and “Private Practice.” I’m thrilled about “The Hunger Games” and "The Help." Last year has been really good for the more layered female character. And writers like me have been laying in wait in television.”


'Hunger Games': Jennifer Lawrence's modern heroine

'Hunger Games': Gary Ross on hunting the job, Jennifer Lawrence

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.


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