EXCLUSIVE: Amidst the continuing tragedy of the Israel-Hamas war, Leviathan Production has entered development on a feature adaptation of Henry Ford’s War on Jews and the Legal Battles Against Hate Speech, a historical work penned by Victoria Saker Woeste.
The film will tell the story of the campaign of antisemitism waged by automotive pioneer Henry Ford throughout the 1920s. It was in 1925 that Aaron Sapiro, a self-made lawyer and activist, sued Ford for libel. After a dramatic court case that gripped the nation, Sapiro forced Ford to shut down his antisemitic newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, and apologize publicly to the Jewish people.
Stanford University Press published Henry Ford’s War on Jews in 2012. Jackie Krentzman brought the project to Leviathan and will be involved as a producer.
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A titan of industry who made automobiles accessible to the middle-class American through his Ford Motor Company, Ford purchased his hometown paper, the Independent, in 1918 and was forced to shutter it in 1927. Famous for his antisemitic views, he also put out conspiracy theory-driven hate speech through the book The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem, which was translated into multiple languages and read across continents.
“The story of Aaron Sapiro’s courageous battle against Henry Ford’s rabid antisemitism and the libelous rantings of his newspaper The Dearborn Independent is, sadly, as relevant today as it was one hundred years ago,” Leviathan Productions’ co-founder and CEO, Ben Cosgrove, told Deadline. “This moment demands that we tell stories about those who bravely stood up against antisemitism, conspiracy theories and disinformation.”
An Affiliated Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation and a historian of American law, Woeste’s expertise is in constitutional rights, religion, discrimination, and economic change. In addition to Henry Ford’s War, she’s written books including Jews and the Law and The Farmer’s Benevolent Trust.
Founded by veteran film producer Cosgrove and bestselling author Josh Foer, Leviathan Productions is an independent production company focused on acquiring and developing mass-market films and television content based on Jewish history, folklore, and literature, as well as stories about Israel.
Past projects announced by the company include adaptations of Leonard Slater’s book The Pledge — centered on the true story of the men and women who led the underground effort in the United States to acquire and transport planes to Israel in advance of the War of Independence — as well as the novel The Secret Chord by Pulitzer Prize-winner Geraldine Brooks about the rise and reign of Israel’s King David. Also previously announced was an adaptation by playwright Anna Ziegler of her award-winning play Photograph 51, which starred Nicole Kidman during its run in the West End. That project tells the story of Rosalind Franklin, the brilliant Jewish scientist who discovered the structure of DNA, only to see credit for her discovery taken by Watson and Crick.
Most recently announced by the company was a horror pic based on the Golem legend to be written by A Series Of Unfortunate Events‘ Daniel Handler. Woeste’s deal was negotiated by Brandon Milostan at Greenberg Glusker.
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