Melissa McCarthy’s (“Ghostbusters”) latest project looks like an Oscar winner in the making. The first image from Marielle Heller’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has just been released (see above), with McCarthy nearly unrecognizable as celebrity profiler turned con artist Lee Israel.
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” tells the true story of Israel’s downfall in the 1990s, based on Israel’s memoir of the same name. Israel was a best-selling writer in the ’70s and ’80s, profiling the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estée Lauder and famed journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. The photographer eventually finds herself unemployed when her artistic tastes fall out of touch with current style. With her back against the wall, Israel begins to steal and forge the letters of the rich and famous with the help of her loyal best friend Jack, played by Richard E. Grant (“Logan”). Jane Curtin (“Unforgettable”), Dolly Wells (“Blunt Talk”) and Anna Deavere Smith (“Nurse Jackie”) will also star.
In real life, Israel forged over 400 letters, often stealing the original letters from archives and library collections and replacing them with fakes; she sold both forgeries and original works. She was eventually caught and sentenced to only six months house arrest, a slap on the wrist in comparison to the scope of her crimes. She died in 2014.
Heller, who previously helmed “Diary of a Teenage Girl”, will direct off an adapted screenplay from Nicole Holofcener (“Enough Said”) and Jeff Whitty (“Shortbus”). Anne Carey (“20th Century Woman”) and Amy Nauiokas (“Mr. Holmes”) will produce via their Archer Gray banner with Israel’s real-life friend David Yarnell (“Deep in My Heart”) with Fox Searchlight Pictures handling distribution. The project was originally meant to be helmed by Holofcener with Julianne Moore (“The Kids Are All Right”) playing Israel, according to THR, but Moore dropped out and McCarthy and Heller boarded the film instead.
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” premieres Oct. 19, 2018.