A feature film inspired by Dover's intelligent design trial is in the works, but it may be a few years before the movie makes it onto the big screen.

And the words "inspired by" will likely mean some creative liberty is taken in the retelling of the drama.

Pennsylvania native Ron Nyswaner, whose writing credits include "Philadelphia," starring Tom Hanks, and "The Prince of Pennsylvania," starring Keanu Reeves, has begun researching and writing the screenplay for Paramount Pictures.

The writer, who grew up in Clarksville, Greene County, said he can relate to the small-town "characters" because they are similar to him and his relatives.

Nyswaner said he has met with several of the key players in the trial, and has read "every word" of the court transcript, every deposition and every piece of journalism written about the trial to prepare for his writing.

He said the film will be "inspired by true events that took place in Dover" and will incorporate "lots of humor and lots of compelling drama."

"I think it's a great subject for a film," he said. "I'm trying not to form any opinions on the issues ... but write the truth from every character's point of view. You always treat every character you're writing with respect. Assume their version of the truth is the truth."

A town torn: Lynda Obst, the Paramount producer who is set to produce the film, said neither side of the intelligent design debate will be "demonized.



"I was very touched and grieved by how torn the town was by the case," she said. "I understood it, and I understood everyone to be extremely well-meaning in their intentions. I thought of it as a stand-in for America."

She said making the movie "inspired by" the events in Dover will give the writer more license to "plumb psychology without pinning it on any one particular character."

The writer will have more freedom to interpret the personalities of the plaintiffs, defendants and attorneys the movie is based on without invading their privacy, she said.

"But obviously, the court ruling is the court ruling, and the transcript is the transcript," she said.

She said she hopes to get the movie into production by the end of next year. As no director or actors are hired, there is no schedule for completion.

Science and faith meet: Nyswaner said he's interested in telling the story in part because he has his own personal faith, but he also trusts the science behind evolution.

"I think that we're all interested in the place where science and faith meet and trying to find out whether or not they're compatible," he said.

The 50-year old Nyswaner lives in Woodstock, N.Y., and works in a 100-year-old barn in his property.

"I guess I'm not the typical screenwriter," he said. "I go to Hollywood as infrequently as possible. I shop at Target. I have a small-town life."

Nyswaner's most recent picture, "The Painted Veil," starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts, opens today. He wrote the screenplay.

Originally contracted to write the Dover screenplay was Ronald Harwood, who won an Academy Award in 2002 for his work on "The Pianist."

Harwood has since moved on to other projects, said Sheila Kinney, a researcher who took notes for Harwood during the trial.

-- Reach Christina Kauff man at 505-5436 or ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.