National Geographic, with Appian Way and Warner Horizon Scripted Television, announced today that The Right Stuff, an adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s iconic, best-selling nonfiction account of the early days of the U.S. space program, has been greenlit to series. Production will begin this Fall 2019.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson are executive producers, along with Mark Lafferty (“Castle Rock,” “Halt and Catch Fire”), who signs on as showrunner. David Nutter (“Game of the Thrones,” “Band of Brothers”) is set to direct and executive produce the series premiere episode. Will Staples (“Animals,” “Shooter”) will also executive produce.
The Right Stuff takes a clear-eyed, non-nostalgic look at the lives of these ambitious astronauts and their families, who became instant celebrities in a competition that would either kill them or make them immortal.
The first season, which uses the book as its starting point, takes place at the height of the Cold War in 1958, when the Soviets are dominating the space race. The public is in fear of a nation in decline, so the U.S. government conceives of a solution — NASA’s Project Mercury — creating the country’s premier astronauts from a handful of the military’s adrenaline-junkie test pilots. Seven individuals, known as the Mercury Seven, are plucked from obscurity and soon forged into heroes long before they have achieved a single heroic act. Within the heart of this historic drama that’s populated by deeply human characters, two archrivals — John Glenn and Alan Shepard — jockey to be the first in space.
Subsequent seasons of The Right Stuff will carry through to the epochal Apollo Space Program, where humankind saw one of its greatest achievements — man setting foot on the moon — and missions beyond.
“The behind-the-scenes stories of the astronauts in Tom Wolfe’s bestseller The Right Stuff are engaging, provocative and timeless,” says Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president, global scripted content and documentary films. “The book’s narrative aligns perfectly with the qualities that we look for in scripted projects: fact-based, wildly entertaining and pushing the limits of human achievement.”
“The Right Stuff is about a moment when the country looked in the same direction to achieve the stuff of fantasy, and on a timeline that was nearly impossible,” says Lafferty. “The story is a reminder of what we’re capable of, but it also shows how much we’ve changed and diversified over time. National Geographic is the perfect home to showcase the ambitious and colorful characters at the center of this pioneering era."
This project marks the second collaboration between National Geographic and Appian Way, following the release of the critically acclaimed climate change documentary Before the Flood, which reached more than 76 million unique total viewers worldwide across linear, digital, streaming and social platforms — making it the one of the most watched films ever released.
About National Geographic Partners LLC
National Geographic Partners LLC (NGP), a joint venture between National Geographic and 21st Century Fox, is committed to bringing the world premium science, adventure and exploration content across an unrivaled portfolio of media assets. NGP combines the global National Geographic television channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo MUNDO, Nat Geo PEOPLE) with National Geographic’s media and consumer-oriented assets, including National Geographic magazines; National Geographic studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children’s media; and ancillary activities that include travel, global experiences and events, archival sales, licensing and e-commerce businesses. Furthering knowledge and understanding of our world has been the core purpose of National Geographic for 131 years, and now we are committed to going deeper, pushing boundaries, going further for our consumers … and reaching millions of people around the world in 172 countries and 43 languages every month as we do it. NGP returns 27 percent of our proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education. For more information, visit natgeotv.com or nationalgeographic.com, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
About Appian Way Productions
Appian Way is a film and television production company founded by Leonardo DiCaprio. Jennifer Davisson serves as president of production. Since its launch, Appian Way has released a diverse slate of films, including Alejandro Iñárritu’s three-time Academy Award® and Golden Globe® winner “The Revenant,” Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award®- and Golden Globe®-nominated “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Academy Award®-nominated and Golden Globe®-winning “The Aviator,” along with “Shutter Island,” Scott Cooper’s “Out of the Furnace,” George Clooney’s Golden Globe®-nominated “The Ides of March,” the psychological thriller “Orphan” and an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s critically acclaimed novel “Live by Night” with Ben Affleck, among others.
The company has put forth strong efforts to gain headway in the documentary world, especially as it pertains to progressive environmental change. Appian Way worked in partnership with National Geographic to produce Before the Flood, a documentary that sheds light on climate change. It also worked with Netflix to produce the Academy Award®-nominated “Virunga,” directed by Orlando von Einsiedel. Appian is in partnership with Netflix on several additional documentaries, including the critically acclaimed “Struggle,” “The Ivory Game,” “How to Change the World,” “Catching the Sun” and the documentary series “Fire Chasers.” Last year Appian also produced the critically acclaimed documentary series “Frontiersmen” as a sequel to the “Men Who Built America” for the History Channel and “Jonestown: Terror in the Jungle” for AMC/Sundance, and currently is in production on a multipart documentary series about Ulysses S. Grant, also for the History Channel.
The following projects are currently in priority development at Appian: a feature adaptation of the Japanese manga “Akira,” directed by Taiki Waititi; a “Grant” feature based on Ron Chernow’s book to which DiCaprio is attached to star and Steven Spielberg is attached to direct; “Da Vinci,” based on the best-selling book by Walter Isaacson; “Sam Phillips,” based on the best-selling book by Peter Guralnick, also with DiCaprio attached to star; “The Ballad of Richard Jewell,” starring Jonah Hill; and “The Twilight Zone.”
Appian’s animated children’s series “Pete the Cat,” based on the famed books by James Dean, just received a second and third season pickup by Amazon and Alcon. The company also has multiple television projects in the works with Sony, Warner Bros, NBCUniversal, Fox 21 and MRC.
About Warner Horizon Scripted Television
A division of the Warner Bros. Television Group, Warner Horizon Scripted Television was founded in 2006 and is one of the entertainment industry’s leading producers of dramatic and comedic programming for the cable and subscription/on-demand marketplace. Series produced by Warner Horizon Scripted Television include “Animal Kingdom” and “Claws” for TNT, “David Makes Man” and “Queen Sugar” for OWN, “Fuller House” and “You” for Netflix, “Krypton” for SYFY, “Pennyworth” for EPIX, “Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists” for Freeform and The Right Stuff for National Geographic.
Jennifer DeGuzman, 212-656-0713, Jennifer.DeGuzman@natgeo.com
Tahli Kouperstein, 240-401-9674, Tahli.Kouperstein@natgeo.com
Jeff Tobler, 818-954-5062, firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Pietranton, 818-954-4556, email@example.com