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Kristen Stewart to play real-life US hero in television debut

Kristen Stewart is set to lead a television show for the first time, playing astronaut Sally Ride in limited series The Challenger.

Ride, who died in 2012, was a physicist who became the first American woman, the youngest American, and the first LGBT+ person to travel to space in 1983. She also helped lead the investigation into the 1986 Challenger disaster, when the space shuttle blew apart 73 seconds after it launched.

Deadline reports that Amazon MGM Studios are close to winning the race to buy the series, which has been developed by Kyra Sedgwick’s Big Swing Productions and is also being produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners and Stewart’s own production company Nevermind.

It will be based on Meredith Bagby’s 2022 book The New Guys: The Historic Class of Astronauts That Broke Barriers and Changed the Face of Space Travel, which tells the story of NASA’s 1978 astronaut class, which along with Ride also included the first African Americans and Asian American to fly to space.

In a statement to Deadline, Sedgwick expressed her excitement about Stewart leading the adaptation.

“She has never done television, but when she read this she became obsessed with telling the story of Sally Ride from her own unique perspective that I won’t even try to paraphrase because she is so eloquent about it,” said Sedgwick.

Kristen Stewart and Sally Ride
Kristen Stewart and Sally Ride (Getty)

“She was so stunning in these pitch meetings and that was a huge part of why it has been so competitive. She’s so compelling and was so rabid about telling this story about an American hero who had to hide who she was, in that time.”

“Who better to play Sally Ride than one of the great actors of her generation? As they say in Hollywood, passion wins the day. Her passion for being an executive producer is vast. As dogged as we were about getting the script to her, she has been that dogged about getting it sold in the marketplace.”

Last month, Stewart called out Hollywood for appearing to support female filmmakers but then turning its back once it has uplifted a certain number of creative voices.

“There’s a thinking that we can check these little boxes… It’s easy for them to be like, ‘Look what we’re doing. We’re making Maggie Gyllenhaal’s movie! We’re making Margot Robbie’s movie!’ And you’re like, OK, cool. You’ve chosen four,” Stewart said.

“And I’m in awe of those women, I love those women,” she clarified, before adding, “[but] it feels phony. If we’re congratulating each other for broadening perspective, when we haven’t really done enough, then we stop broadening.”

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