James Mangold’s Patty Hearst Movie Isn’t Happening After All
Well, that was fast. Mere weeks after James Mangold signed on to direct the untitled Patty Hearst biopic based on the book American Heiress, Fox has canceled the project entirely. The move comes in response to a statement from the heiress herself, who denounced Jeffrey Toobin’s book for the way it “romanticizes” Hearst’s traumatic experiences and makes light of her abduction.
In a statement released yesterday, via THR, the studio said, “Twentieth Century Fox Film and its production partners have decided to cancel the studio’s planned project based on the book American Heiress.” Jeffrey Toobin’s book, released in 2016, recounts the ’70s “saga” of Hearst, the famous newspaper heiress who was abducted by the terrorist group the Symbionese Liberation Army and participated in their crimes. Hearst’s story, subsequent run from the law and sensational trial introduced the public to the concept of “Stockholm syndrome,” in which a victim begins to identify with their captors.
During her trial, Hearst claimed that she was not a willing participant the group’s crimes, and that the SLA had threatened to kill her if she did not cooperate. As for security camera footage that showed Hearst actively participating in a robbery while wielding a machine gun, the heiress said she had been brainwashed.
Hearst released a statement regarding Fox’s biopic, which was set to be Mangold’s next film. In it, Hearst says she was inspired by Oprah Winfrey’s poignant Golden Globes speech and the #MeToo movement to denounce Toobin’s book, which, she says, “romanticizes my rape and torture and calls my abduction a ‘rollicking adventure.’”
On February 11, CNN is (or was?) planning to run The Radical Story of Patty Hearst, a documentary that’s also based on Toobin’s bestselling book. Hearst had harsh words for both CNN and Fox:
[I am] saddened and appalled that Fox 2000 agreed to finance and produce a movie based on Toobin’s book (with a similarly themed screenplay, also written by men) and that CNN has agreed to continue to perpetuate a one-sided dialogue romanticizing my torture and rape by hosting a podcast and docuseries through Toobin’s distorted lens. I refuse to give Jeffrey Toobin, 21st Century Fox, CNN or anyone else involved in these projects about my life the power to make me a victim again, or the power to provide a platform where victim blaming is OK.
Elle Fanning was set to play Hearst in Mangold’s film, which was to begin production sometime this spring. The screenplay was written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the duo behind The People vs. Larry Flynt and American Crime: The People vs. O.J. Simpson (the latter of which was also based on a book by Toobin).
CNN has not yet responded to Hearst’s statement.