Following a buzzy world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, HBO Films has acquired the U.S. rights to the docudrama “Reality,” starring Sydney Sweeney.
In the film, directed by Tina Satter, Sweeney portrays Reality Winner, a woman convicted of leaking a confidential report on Russian election interference to the media. The film contains verbatim dialogue from the unedited transcript of a FBI audio recording, capturing a tense 90 minutes as the FBI interrogates Winner at her home in 2017. The whistleblower — a former U.S. Air Force member and National Security Agency translator — was sentenced to five years in prison.
Satter makes her feature directorial debut with the film, based on her 2019 stage play “Is This a Room.” She also executive produced the project and co-wrote the screenplay with James Paul Dallas.
While HBO hasn’t set a release date yet, Sweeney has a dedicated fanbase among the network’s audience after starring in the hit drama “Euphoria” and the first season of “The White Lotus.” The deal was negotiated by UTA Independent Film Group and WME Independent.
In her review, Variety film critic Jessica Kiang wrote that Sweeney was “revelatory” in the role, noting that the film itself is a “clever, gripping docudrama.”
“From the moment Winner, an ex-USAF Airman fluent in Farsi, Pashto and Dari and working as a translator for an NSA contractor, arrives back to her small house in Augusta, Ga., to discover the FBI waiting for her, Sweeney’s every flicker of emotion, micro-reaction, evasion and retraction, is utterly believable,” Kiang wrote.
During a press conference at Berlin, Sweeney told journalists she studied Winner’s interviews in order to adapt her mannerisms and way of speaking for the audition. Satter then got the two women in communication via Zoom.
“When Tina connected us, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is a dream for an actor,’ because I’m actually getting to speak to the real person, I’m getting to dive more into their mind and and what she’s gone through in her life,” Sweeney said.
“Reality” is produced by Noah Stahl, Brad Becker-Parton, Riva Marker and Greg Nobile. Executive producers are Ellyn Daniels, Will O’Connor, Daniel Ginsberg, Andrew Beck, Bill Way, Elliott Whitton, Eva Maria Daniels, Philipp Engelhorn, Caitlin Gold and Satter. David Duque-Estrada and Rita Walsh co-produced.
The film is a Seaview and 2 SQ FT production in association with Burn These Words, In The Cut, Fit Via Vi, Cinereach, and Tanbark Pictures production. Financing, production and distribution legal handled by Eugene Pikulin at 3B Law.
Deadline was first to report news of the acquisition.