Development of 'Come From Away' film adaptation paused amid COVID-19, say creators

·2 min read

TORONTO — Plans to turn "Come From Away" into a big-screen movie musical have been indefinitely placed on hold, say the Canadian writers behind the Broadway hit.

David Hein and Irene Sankoff were well into the script stages of their film adaptation when COVID-19 delivered an unexpected blow to plans.

"We were supposed to go into production out in Newfoundland and then all the borders closed," Sankoff said Tuesday in a webcam interview from Seattle.

"I think it cost a lot more than anyone wanted to, just because of COVID, so we're in a holding pattern for that at the moment."

The Tony-winning "Come From Away" is inspired by the real-life story of residents in Gander, N.L., who hosted thousands of unexpected plane passengers forced to land in the small town after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Shooting on the East Coast was always a stipulation for the creators, who began writing the first draft of a screenplay four years ago.

"The challenge was always to do it authentically," Hein said of location shoots.

"To do that, we had to shoot in Gander, Newfoundland, and that just wasn't possible."

"Come From Away" ground to a halt while the duo were "several edits" into finessing the script, he added. The film hadn't been cast so many of the most crucial plans were still in their earliest developments.

The couple says they remain hopeful their script will be turned into a movie when the time is right.

For now, they're focused on the upcoming debut of a filmed version of "Come From Away" that was captured on Broadway during a special performance in May. The live version arrives on Apple TV Plus on Sept. 10, the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Hein said a recorded version of the stage production will give viewers around the world an opportunity to experience a show they might've not otherwise.

"Theatre has always been a medium that has a much smaller audience than film and television," he added.

"So if we can have one art form supporting the other, then it's always for the best."

"Come From Away" resumes performances at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Sept. 21. The show will return to the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto on Dec. 7.

Beyond their "Come From Away" ambitions, Hein and Sankoff say they've been working on several new projects with Disney, Netflix and Warner Bros. All of them await the final green light before they can be announced.

They've also used their downtime to explore other programs on Apple TV Plus, including the breakout Jason Sudeikis sports comedy "Ted Lasso," which they say has inspired some fanciful ideas.

"The minute 'Ted Lasso' gets a musical episode we would love to be involved," Hein said.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2021

David Friend, The Canadian Press

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