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Netflix whittles up a $45M deal for Ron Howard's Hillbilly Elegy film

After engaging in the equivalent of a Hollywood Backyard Wrestling match, Netflix has emerged victorious from a recent  auction with the film rights to J.D. Vance’s bestselling novel Hillbilly Elegy. After acquiring the property for a total of $45 million smackers, the streaming giant has set CINDERELLA MAN and APOLLO 13 helmer Ron Howard as director of the project, with THE SHAPE OF WATER co-writer Vanessa Taylor in charge of the script. According to Deadline's exclusive report, the rights to Vance's novel were coveted by many, but it was Netflix who came in with a righteous haymaker, thereby leveling competitors to end the match. Interestingly enough, there are also whispers that HILLBILLY ELEGY could arrive ROMA-style, in that Howard's film could land in theaters as a bonus to its spot on Netflix.

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In addition to directing the feature, Howard will also produce via his Imagine Entertainment studio, with the company's Brian Grazer and Karen Lunder also on board. Meanwhile, Julie Oh is set to executive produce the venture, which intends to shoot later this year.

As per Deadline, Vance's novel, titled Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, "is a critically revered account of growing up in the Rust Belt and a personal analysis of the white underclass, race and privilege in America. Vance, raised poor among working-class “hillbillies,” explores his childhood and family struggles as they navigate drug addiction, and social and economic challenges. Supported by his larger-than-life grandmother, he developed a deep appreciation for education that laid the foundation for him to rise out of poverty and its cultural restraints."

As Netflix continues to dabble in the indie filmmaking game, it's become quite clear in recent times that the streamer means business with regard to building their library of original content. In fact, it was only last month when Netflix let fly their record-breaking Sandra Bullock starrer, BIRD BOX, a feature directed by Susanne Bier that garnered 45 million viewers during its first week online. With numbers like that, it's easy to see why Netflix is willing to throw cartoonish bags of money at big name filmmakers, especially one as lauded as Ron Howard. Here's hoping that everything comes together for HILLBILLY ELEGY, and that more unique properties come to the network in due time.

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