It took 15 years, a title change and superstar Kate Beckinsale, but Havertown’s Joseph Gangemi is finally seeing his screenplay come to life as a Hollywood movie. Stonehearst Asylum hits theaters on Oct. 24, just in time for Halloween. The film will be shown in art-house theaters, along with iTunes and OnDemand.
With heavyweights Ben Kingsley and Michael Cain in supporting roles, the Gothic romantic thriller takes place at the turn of the century in the Scottish Highlands. A young doctor (Jim Sturgess) arrives at the asylum to find that its so-called doctors are, in fact, inmates who’ve revolted and imprisoned the real staff. Or are the folks in straightjackets really the lunatics? You get the gist.
Among the more fetching inmates is Eliza Graves (Beckinsale), who kindles a romance with the young doctor. “She was locked up by her family because her husband assaulted her on her wedding night, and she fought back,” says Gangemi from his Havertown home. “It makes you question how society defines insanity.”
Stonehearst Asylum is an adaptation of the Edgar Allen Poe’s “The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether.” Gangemi turned the little-known, four-page story into a 120-page screenplay. And while it’s not much of an adaptation, he did give Poe credit. “Even though I used just a fragment, I felt it was still important to honor his work,” says Gangemi.
Getting the thing made was a different sort of horror story. The screenplay was sold in 1999 to Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions and came close to production several times. No less than three directors, and big names like Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman, were attached to the film over those 15 years. But each time, production fell apart. “Because it’s not a Marvel action-hero movie, it was extremely tough to get made,” admits Gangemi. “I needed the right combination of elements to align, with the right cast and the right director. They finally did.”
Gangemi is on a hot streak. Earlier this month, Amazon announced that it will be picking up the pilot for Red Oaks, which Gangemi co-wrote with Gregory Jacobs. Executive produced by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh and directed by David Gordon Green, the coming-of-age comedy series is set in 1985 and follows a college sophomore who works for a country-club tennis pro. It costars Dirty Dancing’s Jennifer Grey. Gangemi describes it as “Caddyshack with tennis.”
Watch the Stonehearst Asylum trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=POb4OjQ-_L4