A biopic is in the works on the life of Reality Winner, a former American intelligence contractor who was arrested for leaking a classified report about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and charged with the first criminal leak case in President Donald Trump’s administration.
The project, titled “Winner,” was announced on Tuesday by producers Big Beach, the production team behind “The Farewell” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Susanna Fogel, the co-writer of “Booksmart” and director of “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” is set to direct from a script by Kerry Howley. Howley is the author of an article in New York Magazine from 2017 called “Who is Reality Winner?” that also serves as the basis of the screenplay.
Reality Leigh Winner was a 25-year-old federal contractor employed at the NSA in Georgia who in May 2017, was arrested and accused by the Justice Department of sending a classified report to the news site The Intercept. The report described two cyberattacks by Russia’s military intelligence unit that showed Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. According to the Justice Department via the New York Times, Winner was arrested hours before the story in The Intercept detailing the hacking published and that she confessed to printing out the document and mailing it to the news outlet. Winner was sentenced to five years and three months in prison for violating the Espionage Act, which was the longest sentence ever imposed in federal court.
As described in Howley’s story, however, Winner made for an unusual ideological combatant and leaker. Winner had an active social media presence and didn’t fit the profile of someone like Edward Snowden.
Dani Melia and Peter Saraf of Big Beach are producing alongside Amanda Phillips, who brought the project to them.
“We are honored to be bringing Reality Winner’s story to screen from a beautiful screenplay by Kerry Howley. We have been longtime fans of Susanna Fogel and can think of no one better to capture this complex character through an empathetic and human lens. This is an urgent story that far too few Americans are aware of, and we have assembled the perfect creative team to tell it,” Melia said.
“Reality Winner is a mouthpiece for a generation of young people who are struggling to square their personal ethics with the crumbling ethics of our country’s institutions, which we want to be proud of and have allegiance to. Kerry’s incredible script lays the groundwork for us to approach her timely story with humor and emotion, rather than preaching or partisanship. And as a longtime obsessive fan of Big Beach’s films, I’m beyond honored to partner with them,” Fogel said.
“It’s a privilege to work with this dream team to tell the important story of the fascinating, brave and hilarious Reality Winner,” producer Phillips said in a statement.
Fogel is represented by UTA and Lighthouse Management & Media. Howley is represented by CAA and Anonymous Content.