Another Kennedy story is coming to the big screen, but this time it seems it’s one of friendship more than family.
British stage director Michael Grandage (“Frozen” on Broadway, John Logan’s “Red”) is slated to direct the upcoming “Jack and Lem,” a biopic about the friendship between John F. Kennedy and Kirk Lemoyne “Lem” Billings, Deadline reported on Tuesday. Grandage will also produce the film, along with Andrew and Alex Zoppa, under the Michael Grandage Company.
Per Deadline, the film will be an adaptation of David Pitts’s book “Jack and Lem: The Untold Story of an Extraordinary Friendship,” with David Scearce signed on as screenwriter. The book follows the story of Kennedy and Billings’s 30-year friendship, which began at Choate Rosemary Hall, a prep school in Wallingford, Conn., and lasted until Kennedy’s death. Billings was a lifelong confidant of Kennedy and, according to the book, had his own room in the White House for when he stayed over.
A large part of Pitts’s book, which will be included in the movie, according to Deadline, was the duo’s continued friendship despite the fact that Billings was a gay man in a time when homosexual activity was still largely illegal. Kennedy refused to sever ties with Billings, despite being told that it could ruin him politically. According to Pitts’s “Jack and Lem,” Kennedy “wasn’t going to let anyone control his life, and he certainly wasn’t going to let anyone choose his friends.”
Casting for “Jack and Lem” hasn’t been announced yet, but Grandage’s last (and only other) feature film, “Genius,” the 2016 biopic of the friendship between editor Maxwell Perkins and writer Thomas Wolfe, boasted a star-studded roster of Colin Firth, Jude Law, and Nicole Kidman.
Lillian Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.