The Leader: Tim Blake Nelson, Vera Farmiga to star in film about the Heaven’s Gate Cult

Tim Blake Nelson and Vera Farmiga have signed on to star in the true crime biopic The Leader, about the Heaven’s Gate cult

Tim Blake Nelson will be reprising his The Incredible Hulk role of Samuel Sterns in the upcoming Marvel movie Captain America: New World Order, where we’ll find that Sterns is now a villain known as The Leader. And while he gears up to work on that movie, Nelson has also signed on to star in a film called The Leader – but this isn’t a Marvel project. This one is a true crime biopic about a story that shocked the world back in 1997, the mass suicide of the members of the Heaven’s Gate cult. Nelson will be joined in the cast of The Leader by Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring).

Farmiga will be playing cult leader Bonnie Nettles, a.k.a. Ti. Nelson’s character is the cult’s infamous frontman, Marshall Applewhite, a.k.a. Do.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Leader tells the true story of the 39 members of Heaven’s Gate — an American UFO cult that believed its followers could transform into immortal extraterrestrials and would ascend to heaven — and how they would commit the largest mass suicide to ever take place on American soil. The film tracks Nettles and Applewhite as they develop the religion, build a devout following and face unforeseen conflict when the spaceship they believed would transport their resurrected selves fails to arrive.

Michael Gallagher (Funny Story) has written the screenplay and will be directing the film. He provided the following statement about the project: “Vera Farmiga and Tim Blake Nelson are two of the finest actors working today. We are honored to partner with them to tell this incredible story. The Leader will depict the Heaven’s Gate tragedy through the lens of hope and heartbreak. It is a film about the dangers of self-deception, the thirst for human connection and the mystery of faith.

Cinemand and Balcony 9 Productions are producing the film, and The Exchange will be presenting the project to potential buyers at the European Film Market. The producers are Jana Winternitz, Michael Wormser, and Gallagher of Cinemand, plus Joel David Moore and Max Osswald of Balcony 9 Productions. Rishi Bajaj and Daniel Taborga of Balcony 9 Productions serve as executive producers alongside Cassian Elwes, Evan Silverberg, and Entertainment 360. The Exchange’s Nat McCormick had this to say: “The Heaven’s Gate mass suicide is one of the most fascinating and unprecedented true crime events in American History. It’s hard to comprehend how it all coalesced. And that’s exactly what this movie is about. Tim and Vera portraying the messiahs of Heaven’s Gate is going to be something to behold.

It will be interesting to see how The Leader turns out, and Nelson and Farmiga are great choices to play the main people behind the cult. I don’t know much about Heaven’s Gate, but I do remember the news reports of their mass suicide, the bodies found lying in bed with purple cloths over their top halves and brand new Nikes on their feet.

Are you interested in The Leader? Share your thoughts on this one by leaving a comment below.

Tim Blake Nelson

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.