Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment Developing Feature Based On Podcast ‘Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra’, Tony Kushner And Danny Strong In Talks To Adapt

EXCLUSIVE: After drawing interest from several high-profile buyers, Rachel Maddow is partnering with one of the biggest players in town on a feature adaptation of her podcast, Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra. Sources tell Deadline, Amblin Entertainment has optioned the film rights to Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra from MSNBC and Surprise Inside, Maddow’s production company. Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger would produce the film for Amblin, along with Maddow and Mike Yarvitz, who will produce on behalf of Surprise Inside. As of right now Spielberg will just produce the film with the director job open but insiders add his longtime collaborator, Tony Kushner, (who will also executive produce) and Danny Strong are in talks to co-write.

Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra, a production of MSNBC and NBC News, is an eight-episode podcast series which examines the history of a seditious plot to undermine U.S. democracy 80 years ago, and the wild fight in and out of the courtroom to try to stop it. The series was executive produced by Maddow and former Rachel Maddow Show producer Mike Yarvitz, and produced by Rachel Maddow Show producer Kelsey Desiderio. This is the second original podcast from Maddow and Yarvitz, following their hit series Bag Man, which earned the prestigious duPont-Columbia Award. It debuted at #1 on Apple podcasts in October and stayed #1 for four straight weeks—it has remained in the Top 10 since.

Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra is one of many projects in Maddow’s expanding portfolio across NBCUniversal platforms. Since signing her new overall deal at MSNBC where she went from hosting The Rachel Maddow Show five days a week to just once week on Mondays, Maddow has begun zeroing in on all the different areas she could focus on in this new stage of her career. Along with her agency WME, who signed in April 2021, Maddow began looking at various items over a number multi media platforms that could be used as source material for future projects which included books, podcast, articles and scripts. Sources close to Maddow say while she has been very busy looking at a number of items that could be adapted into projects she could produce, it was never about volume to add to her development slate but rather focusing on high-quality material to produce.

She would eventually land on the podcast Rachel Maddow Presents: ULTRA, which she is writing and hosting, and since its debut has already become one of the more popular podcasts on Apple Podcasts. In recent months, she began meeting with several high-profile producers interested in adapting the show but ultimately the feature pitch made by Amblin, Spielberg and company was hard to pass up. The pitch became even sweeter with Kushner and Strong’s interest, especially given the success Spielberg and Kushner have had in the past on feature front especially when it comes that draws similarities to the themes of ULTRA.

While her focus will be on this feature adaptation, Maddow is continuing to look for more projects to be a part of her future development slate especially on the limited series and doc front that would fit her brand. Maddow is host of the Emmy Award-winning Rachel Maddow Show, which was the most successful show launch in MSNBC history when it debuted in September 2008. She also leads breaking news and special coverage for MSNBC.

Besides WME, she is also repped by Gibson Dunn.

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