Melissa McCarthy to Play Lee Israel, Famed Forger of Literary Letters, in Film Written by Nicole Holofcener


In 2008, Lee Israel published a book, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which detailed her early ’90s exploits as a forger of literary letters. Her path to that point was atypical, having been a successful biographer of Estée Lauder and actress Tallulah Bankhead. When her books stopped selling — or, maybe more accurately, when she stopped writing them — she turned to elaborately forging letters on antique typewriters, eventually selling hundreds of the correspondences before being found out and arrested. She died in 2015, but it’s just been announced that she’ll be brought to life onscreen, in a film that shares the title of her book, by Melissa McCarthy.

Israel is estimated to have forged upwards of 400 letters, and eventually even began stealing letters from archives and selling them as new, never-before-seen correspondence. It was a scandal at the time of her arrest and a scandal again when she was allowed to publish a mainstream book so as to further capitalize on her crimes. Regardless of what one might think of her forgeries, or the inevitable way she’ll be glorified in this new biopic, it’s pretty amazing that she forecasted pop culture’s fascination with the private lives of celebrities. (Though, of course, literary correspondence has always been the one exception to the rule of gossip being gross.)

McCarthy’s casting is the third point of an all-star triumvirate, as the film will be directed by Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) from a script written by Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said, Lovely & Amazing). Julianne Moore was formerly attached to the film, though she departed last year, citing “creative differences.” McCarthy will soon appear in the newest Ghostbusters film, as well as the Gilmore Girls revival.