Samantha Strauss.

Samantha Strauss met with executives at Fox Searchlight during what she describes as a “water bottle” tour of Los Angeles in January last year.

That visit has paid off handsomely as the Dance Academy creator has been commissioned to script a movie about Joan Quigley, the San Francisco astrologer who became a confidante to First Lady Nancy Reagan and President Ronald Reagan.

John Madden (Shakespeare In Love, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) will direct President’s Astrologer, produced by Damian Jones for Fox Searchlight, one of the Fox units which will soon be folded into the Walt Disney Co. as part of a $US71.3 billion deal with Rupert Murdoch’s company.

Fox Searchlight execs had read a sample of Strauss’ work on The End, See-Saw Films’ 10-part drama co-commissioned by Foxtel and Sky UK. They thought the tone was perfect for Madden’s film, which will relate how Nancy Reagan secretly hired Quigley as the White House astrologer in 1981 after John Hinckley’s attempted assassination of the President. Quigley stayed there until she was outed in 1988.

The project came to Strauss and her Australian agent, Yellow Creative Management’s Jean Mostyn, via her agents CAA and Curtis Brown.

“John Madden is one of the most generous people I’ve met in the industry,” Sam tells IF. “We had a wonderful few days last year in London nibbling over the story in a very unstructured way and then I came home and started writing. it’s a thrill to be working with people as experienced and talented as Damian and John.”

The film is part of Fox Searchlight’s renewed producing deal with the UK-based Jones (Goodbye Christopher Robin, The Lady in the Van, The Iron Lady, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie).

The slate includes a reboot of Julia Roberts’ 1991 hit Sleeping With The Enemy to be directed by Nia DaCosta, and a feature version of smash hit James Corden stage play One Man, Two Guvnors.

The End, which stars Frances O’Connor, Harriet Walter, Noni Hazlehurst, Robyn Nevin, Luke Arnold, John Waters, Alex Dimitriades and Roy Billing, is in post.

Directed by Jessica M Thompson and Jonathan Brough and produced by Louise Smith and Carol Hughes, the series follows three generations of a family with separate but intersecting obsessions – trying to figure out how to die with dignity, live with none and make it count.

Strauss says: “The cast were brilliant. I’d look around the catering tent and see Harriet and Frances with Noni, Roy Billing, Robyn Nevin and John Waters and just pinch myself.”

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