Oscar-winning director Ron Howard will direct and co-produce the film adaptation of “Hillbilly Elegy,” J.D. Vance’s memoir of growing up in Appalachian Kentucky and Ohio.
The book made Vance a go-to commentator on the white working class during the 2016 presidential election. The Middletown, Ohio, native, whose family hailed from Breathitt County, went on to earn a degree from Yale Law School.
Last year, Vance was dubbed “The Trump Whisperer,” for his ability to explain the viewpoint of voters who supported Donald Trump, the surprise winner — to many — of the election. In October, he told the Herald-Leader that he started writing the memoir after noting that his background was unique among his fellow Yale Law students.
The book recounts his youth, growing up in a chaotic environment marked by addiction, violence and financial instability. It has earned praise from commentators saying it is an authentic representation of the struggles in Appalachian culture and criticism from people who consider Vance too far removed from his upbringing to comment on the current state of the white working class. When the book was released, he was working as an investment banker in Silicon Valley, though he recently announced he is returning to Ohio to launch a nonprofit to focus on some of the issues raised in the book.
Erica Huggins, president of Howard and producer Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment, which won the rights to the book in a bidding war, praised the memoir in a statement reported by Variety, saying ““Through the lens of a colorful, chaotic family, and with remarkable compassion and self-awareness, J.D. has been able to look back on his own upbringing as a ‘hillbilly’ to illuminate the plight of America’s white working class, speaking directly to the turmoil of our current political climate.”
Howard, who started his career as a child actor on the classic small-town America sitcom “The Andy Griffith Show,” has won two Oscars for producing and directing “A Beautiful Mind,” the 2002 biopic of mathematician John Nash. His recent credits include the documentary “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years” and “Inferno,” the latest film featuring author Dan Brown’s academic hero Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks.
A writer, filming and release dates for “Hillbilly Elegy” have not been announced.