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Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Joel Edgerton and Sean Penn for Gaslit TV series

Julia Roberts in Duplicity

Story by Jack Foley

JULIA Roberts, Armie Hammer, Sean Penn and Joel Edgerton have all been lined up to star in an adaptation of Slate podcast Slow Burn to TV.

Entitled Gaslit, the new series will offer a modern take on Watergate that will focus on the untold stories and forgotten characters of the scandal.

According to the logline, it will explore Nixon’s bumbling, opportunistic subordinates, the deranged zealots aiding and abetting their crimes and the tragic whistle-blowers who would eventually bring the whole enterprise crashing down.

Roberts will star as Martha Mitchell, a big personality with an even bigger mouth, who is a celebrity Arkansan socialite and wife to Nixon’s loyal Attorney General, John Mitchell. Despite her party affiliation, she’s the first person to publicly sound the alarm on Nixon’s involvement in Watergate, causing both the Presidency and her personal life to unravel.

Penn will play John Mitchell. As Attorney General, Mitchell was Nixon’s most trusted adviser and best friend. Temperamental, foulmouthed and ruthless – yet hopelessly in love with his famously outspoken wife – he’ll be forced to choose between Martha and the president.

Hammer will play John Dean, a hotshot upstart and young White House Counsel, who finds himself torn between his ambition and his struggle with whether he can lie to protect the president.

And Joel Edgerton will portray G. Gordon Liddy, a Korean War veteran and former FBI agent, who was chief operative of Nixon’s ‘Plumbers’ unit, tasked with plugging embarrassing leaks in the wake of the Pentagon Papers. He’s the living embodiment of Machiavelli’s ‘the ends justify the means’, with the physique of an Olympian, the ideological zeal of a fanatic and the thick, bold mustache of a patriot.

The series hails from Mr Robot duo Sam Esmail and Robbie Pickering.

A network is not yet attached but the series will be shopped to premium cable networks (such as HBO) and streaming services by the NBC Universal-backed cable and streaming-focused studio, Universal Content Productions.

Roberts, who reunites with Esmail following season one of Amazon’s Homecoming, will also executive produce, while Edgerton and his brother, Nash Edgerton (Mr Inbetween), will direct and executive produce.

UCP president Dawn Olmstead commented: “We are so excited to announce our next collaboration with Sam as we prepare to bring Gaslit to market. Sam and Esmail Corp have introduced the world to some of the most talented creatives in front of and behind the camera, and this project with Robbie at the helm is the next in the lineage of outstanding series from this team. We are also thrilled to be partnering with Julia once again and welcome Sean, Armie, Joel and Nash to UCP.”

Esmail added: “Now more than ever, truth is absolutely stranger than fiction. When Robbie first told me about the Slow Burn podcast, I devoured it instantly. The second I finished it, I felt compelled to bring this story to television especially after watching the cowardice on display during the recent impeachment hearings.

“To help realize this important chapter in our country’s history, my first call was to the brilliant Julia Roberts. After her captivating performance in Homecoming, I knew Julia was the only person who could tackle the complex role of Martha Mitchell and lead our stellar cast in adapting this bizarre and controversial narrative.”