Tim Wardle's film tells extraordinary story of triplets separated at birth, reunited accidentally as adults
The breakout documentary Three Identical Strangers will be adapted into a feature film, in a deal announced Thursday.
Film4 and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment will partner with Raw -- producer of the documentary -- on the fictionalized version of the story, according to a press release obtained by Nonfictionfilm.com. Three Identical Strangers premiered at Sundance, captivating audiences with its tale of 19-year-old New Yorkers Bobby Shafran, David Kellman and Eddy Galland, who randomly discovered they were identical triplets separated at birth. Growing up with adoptive parents the brothers were completely unaware they had siblings.
We trust that they will treat our story with respect and create an amazing dramatic version of our lives.
The deal came about "after widespread interest and fierce, multi-studio competitive bidding in the life rights," according to the statement.
Brothers Bobby and David added, "We trust that they will treat our story with respect and create an amazing dramatic version of our lives" (for reasons that will be clear to anyone who sees the documentary, Eddy Galland was not included in the brothers' joint statement).
Tim Wardle directed the documentary, using recreations, archive material and present-day interviews to capture how the young men finally met and the public sensation their reunion triggered. The documentary takes a darker turn as details emerge about the sinister reasons the babies were separated as infants.
Three Identical Strangers has surged to $2.5 mil. at the domestic box office in just three weeks of release, recording impressive per-screen averages.
"We didn't go to Sundance thinking [the documentary] was going to be massive or people would even really want to see it," Wardle told Nonfictionfilm.com recently. "This is like a crazy experience."
Read: Director Tim Wardle on Three Identical Strangers: the film 'has much bigger thematic questions at its heart -- questions about free will, destiny, nature versus nurture'
Here is the full press release from Raw, Film4 and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment:
Raw, which produced the Sundance breakout documentary Three Identical Strangers, will partner with Film4 and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment (SKE) on a feature film adaptation, it was announced today by Director of Film4 Daniel Battsek, SKE President John Penotti, and Raw’s Dimitri Doganis.
Raw, Film4 and SKE will develop a new narrative feature film based on the story, after widespread interest and fierce, multi-studio competitive bidding in the life rights of Robert Shafran and David Kellman, two of the identical triplets at the heart of the documentary. The sale was handled by Josh Braun of Submarine Entertainment, who also brokered the distribution deal for the documentary out of Sundance. Head of Creative Ollie Madden and Senior Legal and Business Affairs Executive Louise Long handled the negotiation for Film4, Head of Business and Legal Affairs Executive Brian Kornreich represented SKE, and Evan Krauss of Gray Krauss Sandler Des Rochers LLP handled negotiations for Shafran and Kellman. Raw will produce the film, in partnership with SKE.
Raw’s original documentary feature Three Identical Strangers premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Documentary Storytelling. The documentary, directed by Tim Wardle and financed and executive produced by CNN Films and Channel 4 (UK), was the highest-grossing limited release documentary, per screen, of the year thus far on its opening weekend. Currently nearing $3 million at the US box office, the film is still expanding into more cinemas. CNN Films retains U.S. television rights to Three Identical Strangers. Neon, which acquired the North American distribution rights from CNN Films, released the documentary on June 29. Channel 4 has UK TV rights.
Set in New York over several decades, Three Identical Strangers documents the fascinating true story of Shafran, Kellman and Eddy Galland, three complete strangers who inadvertently discover that they are identical triplets separated at birth. When the 19-year-olds' joyous reunion catapults them to international fame, it also sets a chain of extraordinary and disturbing events in motion.
Raw’s Katherine Butler and Dimitri Doganis and SKE’s Sidney Kimmel and John Penotti will produce the as yet untitled narrative feature film. Film4’s Daniel Battsek and Sam Lavender, Submarine’s Josh Braun and Dan Braun, and doc director Tim Wardle will serve as Executive Producers. Mark O’Connor will oversee development on behalf of SKE.
Raw’s Katherine Butler said, “This is an incredible series of true events that naturally lends itself to a narrative telling, and we are delighted to be working with SKE and Film4 to bring Robert, David and Eddy’s story to the widest audience possible.”
Film4’s Daniel Battsek commented, “Robert, David and Eddy’s extraordinary story made a huge impact on me when I saw Three Identical Strangers at Sundance. We were all struck by its dramatic potential and look forward to the challenge of capturing the emotion and revelations of the triplets’ journey, with our partners at Raw and SKE.”
SKE’s Penotti said of the documentary, “The early morning Sundance screening of Three Identical Strangers was a deeply moving and compelling experience. We were absolutely blown away by the story and Raw’s extraordinary work in bringing it to the screen. Being granted the opportunity to expand upon this story in a narrative feature is an honor and a privilege.”
Shafran and Kellman add, “We are delighted and honored to partner with such a talented and creative team. We trust that they will treat our story with respect and create an amazing dramatic version of our lives.”
Raw and Film4’s most recent collaboration American Animals, directed by Bart Layton, also premiered at Sundance and was released on June 1st in the US by The Orchard and MoviePass. STX will release the film in the UK on September 7th.
Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, a division of SK Global, counts among its upcoming projects the comedy Crazy Rich Asians, a co-production with Warner Bros. from director Jon Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) and starring Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh, set for release in the US on August 15, 2018; and the psychological thriller The Widow, from writer/director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) and starring Isabelle Huppert and Chloë Grace Moretz.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.