Melissa McCarthy to Play Real-Life Forger Lee Israel in ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’
Aside from having a great title, Can You Ever Forgive Me? has been attracting some truly great talent. Enough Said director Nicole Holofcener was originally attached to helm the true-life drama with Julianne Moore set to play the leading role, and while they both dropped out, they’ve been replaced by equally exciting names: Melissa McCarthy and The Diary of a Teenage Girl director Marielle Heller.
Since making her feature directing debut, Heller has been signing on for some very intriguing projects, including the J.J. Abrams-produced sci-fi project Kolma (starring Daisy Ridley) and a film based on the gay rights documentary The Case Against 8. According to THR, Heller has added Can You Ever Forgive Me? to her directing to-do list, with McCarthy set to play the role of famous forger Lee Israel.
That’s also exciting news as far as McCarthy’s concerned — although the comedies she’s made with husband Ben Falcone have performed very well at the box office, they’re typically disappointing in comparison to the work she’s done with Paul Feig in films like Bridesmaids and Spy. A McCarthy film that could actually be great without Feig’s involvement? Sign me up.
Based on Israel’s 2008 memoir of the same name, Can You Ever Forgive Me? tells the story of the struggling author who discovered a penchant for forging the work of more successful writers — despite her own creative prosperity in the ’70s. Israel sustained a solid, if brief and very illegal, career as a forger before she was ultimately busted and sentenced to house arrest in 1993. Here’s the official synopsis of her memoir:
Before turning to the criminal life, running a one-woman forgery scam out of an Upper West Side studio shared with her tortoiseshell cat, and dodging the FBI, Lee Israel enjoyed a celebrated reputation as an author. When her writing career suddenly took a turn for the worse, she conceived of the astonishing literary scheme that fooled even many of the experts. Forging hundreds of letters from such collectible luminaries as Dorothy Parker, Noël Coward, and Lillian Hellman — and recreating their autographs with a flourish — Israel sold her “memorabilia” to dealers across the country, producing a collection of pitch-perfect imitations virtually indistinguishable from the voices of their real-life counterparts. Exquisitely written, with reproductions of her marvelous forgeries, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is Israel’s delightful, hilarious memoir of a brilliant and audacious literary crime caper.
Holofcener wrote the screenplay for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and it’s unclear if Heller will take a pass at the script herself before heading into production. Based on the narrative and emotional brilliance of Heller’s Diary of a Teenage Girl, you should definitely keep an eye out for all three of her upcoming projects — and watch her debut film if you haven’t already.