‘Donnie Darko’ Director Richard Kelly Developing Rod Serling Biopic

     September 3, 2019


Richard Kelly is about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind, as the Donnie Darko director is developing a biopic of The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling that aims to go into production next year, Collider has confirmed.

Jason Michael Berman is producing via Mandalay Pictures along with Kevin Turen, Matthew Lindner and Kelly’s manager, Brian Young. Kelly is writing the screenplay himself, and should the project actually go before cameras, it would serve as the Southland Tales director’s fourth feature, as well as his first since the Cameron DiazJames Marsden thriller The Box back in 2009. The only other film Kelly has a personal credit on since then is Operation: Endgame, which he produced via his Darko Entertainment banner.

Kelly may be 1-for-3 in my book, but I still believe in him as a filmmaker, because that ‘1’ is Donnie Darko, a modern masterpiece and, yes, one of the greatest superhero movies of all time, in my humble opinion. Kelly is an ambitious storyteller — you should track down his script Bessie — whose strange ideas actually have much in common with those of Serling, who created The Twilight Zone. In fact, The Box was based on the short story “Button, Button” by Richard Matheson, which was previously adapted as a Twilight Zone episode in the ’80s iteration of the sci-fi series. But I digress…


Image via CBS

Serling happened to have a fascinating life. He grew up outside of Syracuse, New York as the class clown, though he eventually matured enough to write for his high school newspaper. Immediately after graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and trained as a paratrooper. Since he was raised Jewish, he had hoped to fight Hitler and the German Army, though he was sent west to fight in the Philippines, where he saw death all around him each day. Though he was honored with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, Serling’s experience in the military haunted him and had a profound effect on his later work. After being discharged, Serling attended Antioch College, where he began writing and performing in radio shows on campus. At school, he had a reputation as a ladies’ man as well as a daredevil, as he took on the dangerous job of testing parachutes.

Following his radio days, Serling moved into television, writing for a local station in Cincinnati before going out on his own. He sold several scripts, but resented the compromises that network sponsors and censors forced him to make, so he decided to create his own show, The Twilight Zone. It won numerous awards and drew rave reviews from critics and audiences alike, but its ratings remained modest, and he ultimately sold the rights to CBS. Serling was also an antiwar activist who frequently lobbied for racial equality, both of which were recurring themes in his writing.

Clearly, there’s no shortage of material to work with here, and it’ll be interesting to see Kelly work within the more structured genre of the biopic while also being able to indulge his own sci-fi quirks. I’m just thrilled to see him getting back behind a camera again, because it has been far too long. I understand that Kelly’s films aren’t for everyone, including myself sometimes, but I’m eager to see his take on a fellow outside-the-box thinker like Serling, and I can’t wait to see he casts as the Twilight Zone creator. The GWW broke the news.


Image via Newmarket Films


Image via Warner Bros.

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