BAFTA Award Winner Susanna White will Direct Screenplay by Acclaimed Playwright Suzie Miller
LOS ANGELES – May 15, 2023 – Participant, the leading media company dedicated to timely, relevant and emotionally transformational stories, and Bunya Productions announce that Academy Award® nominee and Tony Award® winner Cynthia Erivo will star in and executive produce the feature film adaptation of the Olivier Award-winning and Tony Award® nominated play Prima Facie. The play is currently receiving rave reviews on Broadway after a sold-out, commercially successful run on London’s West End.
Participant and Bunya Productions are producing the film, in association with Erivo’s Edith’s Daughter. The film will be directed by BAFTA Award-winning filmmaker Susanna White. Critically-acclaimed playwright Suzie Miller, who wrote the award-winning stage play, adapted the screenplay. Bunya’s Greer Simpkin, David Jowsey and Jenny Cooney will produce the feature alongside Participant; Miller, Erivo, Solome Williams and Participant’s Jeff Skoll will executive produce.
A propulsive and character-driven film, Prima Facie follows Tessa, an ambitious and confident defense attorney from working class roots. A rising star in the high-powered London legal system, Tessa skillfully defends her clients, including those accused of sexual assault. But after she is raped by a colleague, she discovers that the law does not deliver justice along the boundaries of consent.
“I am thrilled to be joining Suzie, Susanna, Participant, Bunya and the rest of the team on this journey with Prima Facie. Tessa’s experience sheds such vulnerable light on the complex conversations around consent and sexual abuse and the law that surrounds it, which is all too relatable for so many and timely for all,” said Erivo. “Jodie Comer’s powerhouse exploration of that struggle on Broadway is nothing short of beautiful and heart-wrenching. When I read this script I knew it was important work to do. I look forward to getting to know who Tessa is to me as Prima Facie goes from stage to screen.”
Miller said, "I am thrilled to have the brilliant Cynthia Erivo join this incredible team; she is a highly talented and nuanced actor who will create a bold and dynamic Tessa for the screen. I am also excited to be working with such a talented and collaborative director in Susanna White, as well as Bunya Productions and Participant - these are two companies who are truly committed to telling great stories that have real world impact.”
“I am honored to have the opportunity to take this project forward as it evolves into a new form on the screen and to further the conversation around consent,” added White. “Cynthia Erivo is a brave and bold actor and Suzie Miller such an important and intelligent voice. Bunya and Participant are really exciting partners in their long-standing commitment to telling stories that matter.”
“Cynthia Erivo is such a gifted talent, and we are privileged to work with her, Bunya and the filmmaking team on this urgently engaging film,” added Participant CEO David Linde. “I had the fortune of seeing Prima Facie in London and was absolutely blown away by Suzie’s work, and I’ve known Susanna long enough to know that I cannot wait for this story to be reinvented for the screen through her lens.”
Bunya’s Greer Simpkin stated, “From the moment we saw Prima Facie on stage in Sydney, we knew that Suzie Miller’s extraordinary writing would make a compelling film. We are so thrilled to be able to take this story to the screen, not only with the incredible Cynthia Erivo and Suzie adapting her own work, but collaborating with brilliant director Susanna White and Participant, a company renowned for not just telling incredible stories, but using art to create impact and change in our world."
Prima Facie first opened in Australia in 2020 and is in the process of opening globally in over 25 countries. The play was recently nominated for four Tony Awards®, won the 2023 Olivier Awards for Best New Play and Best Actress, and previously won three categories at the Australian Writers Guild Awards, including the highest honors.
Erivo’s film Drift, which she both stars in and produces, received critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival. She is currently in production on Jon M. Chu’s film adaptation of the beloved musical Wicked, starring as Elphaba opposite Ariana Grande’s Glinda. Erivo is represented by UTA, Authentic Talent and Literary Management, Peikoff Mahan and The Lede Company.
White is a BAFTA award-winning and Emmy-nominated director, who has directed the films Woman Walks Ahead and Our Kind of Traitor; as well as three episodes of the acclaimed action and science-fiction series Star Wars: Andor; the mini-series Parades End written by Sir Tom Stoppard; Generation Kill with David Simon; and Bleak House, for which she won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Drama Serial. White is represented by Casarotto Ramsay & Associates and CAA.
Miller is a multi-award winning Australian/British playwright and screenwriter who wrote plays including RBG – of Many, One; Caress/Ache; Transparency; The Mathematics of Longing; Sunset Strip and DUST. Miller is represented by HLA Management and The Agency.
Robert Kessel and Elizabeth Haggard will oversee the project for Participant. Participant’s upcoming feature releases include BLKNWS (A24), White Bird (Lionsgate), Shirley (Netflix) and Out of My Mind (Disney +). Recent releases include Academy Award® nominee All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (NEON, HBO Documentary Films), winner of the Venice Golden Lion for Best Film; Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power (Greenwich, Peacock); and Descendant (Netflix/Higher Ground), winner of the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Creative Vision at Sundance.
Founded in 2004 by Chairman Jeff Skoll and under the leadership of CEO David Linde, Participant (www.participant.com) is the leading global media company dedicated to content that unites art and activism to create positive change. Participant’s films have secured 86 Academy Award® nominations, including All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, a 2023 nominee for Best Documentary Feature, and 21 wins, including Best Picture for Spotlight and Green Book; Best Documentary Feature for An Inconvenient Truth, CITIZENFOUR, The Cove and American Factory; and Best Foreign Language Film for Roma and A Fantastic Woman. Participant also has earned 44 Emmy® Award nominations and 11 wins, including two wins for the groundbreaking When They See Us. A pioneer of socially conscious storytelling, Participant partners with key nonprofits and NGOs to drive real-world impact and awareness around today’s most vital issues on a global scale, and is the only major US entertainment company whose social and environmental impact has earned a B Corp Certification. Participant believes that diversity is a source of strength, that inclusion is essential to progress, and that equity is an imperative for impact. Follow Participant on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
About Bunya Productions
David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin are the principals of Bunya Productions (www.bunyaproductions.com) which has produced a slate of award-winning Australian feature films and television drama that highlight their passion for bringing great stories to life, working with some of the most talented artists in the business. All of their films have premiered at top international film festivals, including Limbo (Berlin Competition). The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson (SXSW), High Ground (Berlin), Sweet Country (Venice and Toronto), Goldstone (Toronto), Jasper Jones (Shanghai), Mystery Road (Toronto), Toomelah (Cannes), Satellite Boy (Berlin and Toronto) and Mad Bastards (Sundance). Bunya has amassed major awards in Australia and internationally, including Bunya’s 2017 film, Sweet Country, winning both the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival and the Platform Competition at the Toronto Film Festival.