Melissa McCarthy is set to star as Lee Israel in a Fox Searchlight film based on the author-turned-criminal’s memoir.
Israel’s memoir Can You ever Forgive Me? chronicles her early success, such as writing biographies for actress Tallulah Blankhead and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen, and her descent into forging and selling letters from celebrities after her work was no longer considered relevant. Israel began with writing fake letters and then moved onto stealing the real things from archives when collectors started suspecting inauthenticity. She plead guilty to the crimes in 1993 and spent six months on house arrest and five years on probation. In 2008, she penned Can You Ever Forgive Me? in which she refers to her forged letters (of which there were more than 400) as her best work. Israel died in 2014 in New York City, where she lived for most of her life.
Nicole Holofcener, who has previously written films like Every Secret Thing and Enough Said, wrote the script using Israel’s memoir. Marielle Heller (Diary of a Teenage Girl) will direct. Anne Carey and Amy Nauiokas are producing along Israel’s real-life friend David Yarnell. The film will be a dark comedy, a slightly more serious venture for the hilarious McCarthy, who can be seen in Ghostbusters this summer. Julianne Moore was originally cast as the lead, but left the project last year, citing creative differences as the reason. Can You Ever Forgive Me? will begin filming next year.