Berlin 2015: Octavia Spencer Reteaming w/ ‘The Help’ Producer for Mary Seacole Biopic

By January 28, 2015February 24th, 2015No Comments

Details on a new project Octavia Spencer is now attached to, which will be shopped at the upcoming European Film Market, which runs in conjunction with the Berlin Film Festival…

Brian O’Shea, CEO of The Exchange, announced today that Octavia Spencer is attached to Brunson Green’s “Seacole.”

The pair last worked together on “The Help,” which Spencer co-starred in, and Green produced.

Via the press release, the project is described as an epic drama that will be directed by acclaimed theater and filmmaker Charlie Stratton, from a screenplay written by Academy Award nominee Dianne Houston and Marnie Dickens. It’ll tell the widely unknown, inspirational true story of the Jamaican doctress, Mary Seacole. Her self-sacrifice on the front lines and fierce, adversarial relationship with Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War made her famous in her time. She became a worldwide sensation, eventually becoming the first black female bestselling author. Her story has been lost in the discrimination of history and overshadowed by Nightingale. The film focuses on the fast-paced and bloody action of the Crimean battlefield, Mary’s desire to work with Nightingale, and her unrelenting dedication to care for the British soldiers during and after the war. “Seacole” will show Mary’s stark contrasts and remarkable similarities to Nightingale – the greatest thing dividing them being the color of their skin.

Octavia Spencer will of course play Mary Seacole.

“It is time to bring Mary Seacole’s story to the big screen, Octavia Spencer will bring her wit and determination to this strong character”, said Brian O’Shea from The Exchange.

Brunson Green commented: “It’s exciting to be working with Octavia again to bring this important and moving story to life. Mary Seacole was a dynamic, complex and charming woman, knowing Octavia and her immense talent, there is no one better to embody this impressive and courageous historical figure.”

In brief… Seacole was born Mary Jane Grant in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805 to a Scottish soldier, and Jamaican mother. She learned her nursing skills from her mother, who ran a boarding house for injured soldiers. In 1836, Mary married Edwin Seacole but the marriage was short-lived as he died in 1844. Seacole was an inveterate traveller, and before her marriage, visited other parts of the Caribbean, including Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas, as well as Central America and Britain. On these trips she complemented her knowledge of traditional medicine with European medical ideas. In 1854, she traveled to England again, and approached the War Office, asking to be sent as an army nurse to the Crimea, where there was known to be poor medical facilities for wounded soldiers. She was refused. But, undaunted, Seacole funded her own trip to the Crimea where she established the British Hotel near Balaclava, to provide “a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers.” She also visited the battlefield, sometimes under fire, to nurse the wounded, and became known as “Mother Seacole.” Her reputation rivaled that of Florence Nightingale. After the war, she returned to England destitute and sick. Word of her plight spread, which would lead to a benefit festival organised to raise money for her, attracting thousands of people. Later that same year (1857), Seacole published her memoirs, “The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands.” She would eventually die on May 14, 1881.

The project, which reads like it could be an awards season contender (the film overall and its star), is to be co-produced and financed by Umedia (“The Artist,” “Grace of Monaco”).

“Seacole” will be introduced to international buyers by The Exchange at Berlin EFM’15, February 5-12, 2015.