Natalie Portman is nearing a deal to direct an untitled film about Esther and Pauline Friedman, identical twin sisters who are better known as the writers behind the syndicated Ann Landers and Dear Abby advice columns, and the Oscar-winning actress also plans to tackle both roles, multiple sources have told Collider.
Katie Robbins (The Affair) wrote the script, and the film will be produced by Peter Saraf and Dani Melia of Big Beach Films, the company behind such indie hits as Little Miss Sunshine and Safety Not Guaranteed.
Born in Iowa in 1918, Eppie (Esther) and Popo (Pauline), as they were nicknamed, were very close growing up, working together at Morningside College’s school newspaper and participating in a double marriage ceremony on their 21st birthday. However, once Eppie accepted a position as the “Ann Landers” advice columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times, Pauline decided to start her own column, which she called Dear Abby. This created a bitter sibling rivalry, and while the two eventually reconciled in 1964, their rift continued for decades, until Eppie passed away in 2002. Eppie and Pauline’s contentious relationship even trickled down to their two daughters, who continued the family feud going forward. Eppie and Pauline’s husbands and editors will serve as key supporting characters in the film, which does not have a start date at this time.
Portman previously wrote, directed and starred in the Israeli drama A Tale of Love and Darkness, so she has experience working simultaneously on both sides of the camera. As an actress, Portman is coming off the acclaimed sci-fi film Annihilation, which struck a chord with critics to the tune of a 87 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. She is currently filming Fargo creator Noah Hawley‘s feature directorial debut Pale Blue Dot, in which she plays an astronaut opposite Jon Hamm, Dan Stevens and Zazie Beetz, and she has also wrapped a pair of high-profile indies — Xavier Dolan‘s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan and Brady Corbet‘s Venice-bound Vox Lux. Portman won an Oscar for Black Swan and earned nominations for both Jackie and Closer. Robbins has worked as a producer on The Affair and as a staff writer on The Last Tycoon.