The worldwide distribution rights to the movie, titled You Are My Friend, were acquired by TriStar Pictures. It's based on the real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and a journalist named Tom Junod. Junod, portrayed a cynic, is assigned to write a profile on Rogers at the height of his TV fame. The experience softens Junod's outlook and helps him gain perspective.
TriStar also named their director, Marielle Heller. Heller is best known for Diary of A Teenage Girl, and she told reporters she's excited to take on this new project.
"I'm thrilled to be making You Are My Friend," she said. "The script knocked me out with its message of kindness and its exploration of the human spirit. As a mother, I am so inspired by the teachings of Fred Rogers and as a human I am in awe of his life's work. I can't wait to bring his story to the public and be a part of such a thoughtful, smart group of people who are all coming together to make this film, which truly feels to me like an antidote to our very fractured culture."
That script was written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster. Both are known for writing on Transparent, while Harpster has a few acting TV credits as well, including Grey's Anatomy and One Mississippi. The two are also writing Maleficent 2, which was recently announced.
"This is the perfect alchemy of talent coming together at the perfect time to remind us all of the transformative power of kindness and respect to heal and to unite," said Hannah Minghella, President of TriStar Pictures. "We are proud to partner with Marielle, Tom and everyone at Big Beach to bring this inspirational true story to audiences all over the world."
Big Beach Films is producing You Are My Friend. The company's own Leah Holzer will executive produce the project alongside Fitzerman-Blue and Harpster. The two writers reportedly developed the true story into a script together. It first appeared on Hollywood's infamous "Black List" in 2013.
"Now more than ever, we all need a re-introduction to Fred Rogers' message of uncompromising love and kindness between all living things," said Big Beach producers Marc Turtletaub and Peter Saraf. The two are also working as producers on the project. "Mari Heller is the perfect visionary filmmaker to bring Noah and Micah's script to life and because of her vision and this remarkable script, we have the quintessential actor to play Fred Rogers."