Emmy-nominated Jon Avnet (Uprising, The Burning Bed) is set to direct and executive produce the USA Network six-hour television event The Starter Wife, it was announced by Jeff Wachtel, executive vice president of original programming for USA. Starring Debra Messing (Will & Grace), the project is based on the New York Times best-selling 2005 novel (Simon & Schuster) of the same name by author Gigi Levangie Grazer (Rescue Me, Maneater). The Starter Wife will be executive produced by Grazer and penned by the writing team of Sara Parriott & Josann McGibbon (Runaway Bride), who will also serve as executive producers along with Stephanie Davis (The Caveman's Valentine) and Howard Klein (The Office, Carnivale) from 3 Arts Entertainment. NBC Universal Television Studio is producing.
"Jon Avnet is a visionary filmmaker with an incredible track record of high-profile and award-winning projects," said Wachtel. "We are thrilled to have him directing this great project for us."
"Jon Avnet is a celebrated director with a vast and diverse body of work," added Messing. "He is smart, passionate about the project, and a real actor's director."
The Starter Wife is a sexy, savvy and wickedly funny tour de force about life after divorce and one woman's (Messing) quest to redefine herself after years of marriage to a Hollywood studio head. With wit, sassy style and cameos of the rich and famous -- and wannabe rich and famous -- The Starter Wife tackles the most delicious and dastardly details of a divorce and recovery, Hollywood style, while at the same time being relatable to everyday women.
Avnet began his career in filmmaking after winning a directing fellowship at the American Film Institute. His early success came as a producer with such efforts as Risky Business, The Burning Bed, Less Than Zero, The Mighty Ducks, George of the Jungle, When a Man Loves a Woman, Men Don't Leave and Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow among others. Avnet made his directorial debut with the made-for-television drama "Between Two Women" starring Farrah Fawcett and Colleen Dewhurst. He also directed for television the Boomtown pilot and the miniseries The Uprising, which was nominated for numerous Emmys and Golden Globes. Avnet has also directed many features including Fried Green Tomatoes, The War and Up Close and Personal among others. His work has won or been nominated for multiple Academy, Emmys, Golden Globes and Directors Guild of America awards, as well as Writers Guild of America awards, the Peabody, the Humanitas and CableACE awards. He is in postproduction on 88 minutes, which he directed and stars Al Pacino. This year Avnet took home a Tony award for best play as producer of The History Boys. The prior year, he produced Broadway's The Pillowman and Spamalot.
Grazer worked for eight years developing and writing television shows for legendary network president and producer Fred Silverman. She also wrote the 1998 movie Stepmom starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon and has been published in numerous periodicals such as Vogue, People Magazine, Glamour and Harper's Bazaar. Her best sellers, Maneater and Rescue Me, have been optioned by Mandalay Pictures and Fox Searchlight Pictures, respectively. Grazer is currently working on her next novel, a romantic take on high-end divorce set in New York, to be published by Simon and Schuster.
The writing team of Sara Parriott & Josann McGibbon are best known for having penned Runaway Bride featuring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. More recently, they have been working on the highly anticipated animated movie event Rapunzel Unbraided for Walt Disney Animation for Dick Cook and Michael Eisner. McGibbon and Parriott have worked on Chicken Little for Disney and "Frankenweenie" for Tim Burton, and have additionally written for Sandra Bullock, Sid Ganis, Tom Shadyac and Sara Colleton. Parriott & McGibbon also wrote the story for Three Men and a Little Lady. Currently, Stuart Cornfeld of Ben Stiller's Red Hour Films is in development with their script "Staying Power."