Eminent domain story headed for TV

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"Little Pink House" is becoming a big Hollywood project.

Author Jeff Benedict has sold the rights to his book about the battle in New London over eminent domain to Lifetime. The network is gearing up to turn the piece into a TV movie.

Benedict said Wednesday that the contract hasn't been signed, but all the terms have been agreed on and signing the papers is a formality at this point.

Details about the casting and where the movie will be shot weren't being made public as of Wednesday.

Asked whether they might film "Little Pink House" in New London, Benedict says, "That, I have no idea. I highly doubt it. ... I think it'd be really unusual."

Benedict will not be the screenwriter; that job is going to Jamie Pachino, who has previously written teleplays for Lifetime.

The idea of making a movie out of "Little Pink House" has been swirling since the book was released in 2009. A number of movie studios requested copies of the manuscript. People liked it, but it didn't go beyond that during what Benedict describes as the Iron-Man/Spider-Man era of movies.

A couple of months ago, there was renewed interest in the book, leading to the Lifetime deal.

"Honestly, the thinking early on was the best home for a project like this would be something like HBO or Lifetime, which are really the two best places making television movies today," Benedict said.

Lifetime actually makes movies, while big movie houses buy a huge number of books — and then make very few into films.

"So the chances of your book becoming a movie if it's sold to a major movie house is so slim," Benedict said. "We went through this with 'Without Reservation.' That movie option was sold two or three times to major houses and, as you can see, there's still no movie."

Benedict is happy to see this development for "Little Pink House," and he said he's particularly happy for Susette Kelo, whose home provided the title for Benedict's book and whose fight to stay in the Fort Trumbull area, which ultimately made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, formed the spine of the story.

"When I started writing 'Pink House' a few years ago, I purposely chose her not just because her name is the first name on the lawsuit. To me, the story is so much about her fight. There are a lot of other characters, but she fought a long, long, long fight," he said.

He had always hoped "Little Pink House" would be made into a film. Benedict is quite aware that it will reach more people; more folks will watch a movie than will read a book over the course of that book's existence.

Beyond that, he said, "I wrote it with the intention of it reading like a movie, just hoping that one day, it would become one. People who lived the story — there's nothing like seeing your story on a screen. I'm pretty excited about that, and I know it's important to Susette."

Casting Call

In 2009, our features staff offered up these casting suggestions for the movie:

Renee Zellweger as Suzette Kelo, owner of the little pink house

Fran Drescher as Claire Gaudiani, Connecticut College president

John Malkovich as Murray Renshaw, gadfly

Sam Waterston as Tom Londregan, city attorney

William Macy as David Goebel, NLDC head

Kathy Bates as Kathleen Mitchell, gadfly

Phillip Seymour Hoffman as John Rowland, governor

James Gandolfini as Tony Basilica, Democratic town committee chairman

Jack Black as William Von Winkle, homeowner

Ben Stiller as Jay Levin, lobbyist

Christopher Walken as George Milne, Pfizer Research head

Ben Affleck as Byron Athenian, homeowner

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