Ahead of Sunday’s Academy Awards, where Spotlight is tipped to win Best Original Screenplay and potentially even upset The Revenant for Best Picture, that film’s Oscar-nominated director has selected his next project. According to Deadline, Tom McCarthy will team with Netflix to direct and produce 13 Reasons Why, a teen-targeted series produced by Selena Gomez.
McCarthy, whose filmography includes bizarre turkeys like The Cobbler and sweet indies like The Station Agent, is no stranger to upending expectations. And though it’s unusual, to say the least, for a director riding one of the year’s most roundly acclaimed movies to go to the small screen for his first post-Oscar gig, Netflix has been drawing increasingly major talent these past few months, as it continues to assert itself as a deafening voice in the field of original programming.
13 Reasons Why will adapt the bestselling YA novel by Jay Asher. Though Asher’s source material hasn’t yet found an audience as rabid as that of John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars and Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, anyone who’s read it can understand the draw for both McCarthy and Gomez.
The Spring Breakers actress is not yet attached to act in the series, but it’s possible she’s eyeing the lead role of Hannah Baker, an enigmatic yet magnetic teen who commits suicide, leaving her community reeling. When classmate Clay Jensen (still uncast), who had crushed on Hannah from afar, returns home from school one day, about two weeks after Hannah takes her life, he discovers a box of cassette tapes left on his doorstep. Listening to what turn to to be confessional recordings left behind by Hannah, Clay begins to learn about the 13 reasons she says she killed herself – including him.
Gomez and her mother, Manda Teefy, have been instrumental in bringing an adaptation of 13 Reasons Why to fruition – after the actress tore through Asher’s novel, they brought the property to Anonymous Content, which originally wanted a feature film. Instead, Netflix snapped it as a 13-episode series, teaming with Paramount TV to develop the project further.
McCarthy coming aboard is a truly fantastic step forward for this series. As shown in Spotlight, the director is masterful at building knife’s-edge tension out of character-driven, cerebral conflicts, and tackling a subject as prickly as teen suicide is a challenge it will be thrilling to watch him attempt.