Rachel Brosnahan, who played “Midge” Maisel in the Amazon Prime Video period comedy series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, will play her teacher Annie Sullivan.
Helen & Teacher is based on an original screenplay by Laetitia Mikles and Wash Westmoreland, in consultation with a team at Helen Keller National Center for Youth and Adults. Westmoreland (Still Alice) is also the director.
The film will be set in the early 1900s. The plot, as described by Deadline, “will follow Keller’s tumultuous time at Radcliffe College of Harvard University when her rapidly expanding worldview and sexual awakening brings her into direct conflict with the more conservative Sullivan. When Ms. Sullivan is courted by the young and brilliant publisher, John Macy, tensions escalate between the two women threatening the bonds of their friendship.”
“Today, when some TikTok threads dispute Helen Keller’s achievements and even her existence, it is time for a film that shows her relevance, her brilliance, and her unbreakable spirit,” Westmoreland told Deadline. (The TikTok controversy surrounding Helen Keller may have started as a joke, but as The Guardian article says, there are teenagers who don’t believe that Helen Keller was deaf-blind and able to accomplish all that she did.)
Cornerstone is handling international sales and distribution. Cornerstone’s Alison Thompson and Mark Gooder told Deadline that they’re looking forward to reintroducing one of the most famous teacher-student relationships in modern history.
“The lifelong work on disability rights by these two remarkable women paved the way for future generations,” they said.
Rachel Brosnahan is best known for her starring role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Millicent Simmonds, who is deaf, was in A Quiet Place and its sequel. She is also appearing in a Spring 2022 television series called True Biz, based on deaf activist Sara Novic’s novel.
Simmonds is actually a distant cousin of Helen Keller, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Variety reported that most adaptations of Helen Keller’s story have featured non-deaf actors, so the fact that Simmonds is deaf is a step forward. Despite this, there’s been some controversy that the actor playing Helen Keller isn’t deaf-blind, because someone who is deaf is not deaf-blind. A deaf-blind person playing Helen Keller would make it more authentic, people in the deaf-blind community say, and give them more representation and hiring opportunities.
Production will begin in the summer of 2022.