Natalie Portman is directing and starring as twin sisters Ann Landers and her twin sister “Dear Abby” in a drama about dueling advice columnists Esther and Pauline Friedman.
Portman will play dual roles as the writers behind the Ann Landers and Dear Abby columns, which were the most popular articles in the thousands of newspapers around the world. The sisters had a bitter professional rivalry but led personal lives that were equal parts competitive, jealous, successful and loving.
Katie Robbins, who currently serves as a producer on Showtime’s The Affair, will write the feature.
Portman, who made her directorial debut with 2015 Israeli drama A Tale of Love and Darkness, is set to premiere two films at the 2018 Toronto Film Festival: Xavier Dolan’s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan and pop star drama Vox Lux.
“Dear Abby” – Pauline Friedman Phillips, better known by her pen name, Abigail Van Buren (“Dear Abby), lived to the age of 94. She died in 2013 after battling Alzheimer’s. She was born 17 minutes after her identical twin sister, Esther Lederer, and published her first Dear Abby column in 1956, three months after Esther’s debut as Ann Landers. Phillips chose her pen name from the Bible (“Then David said to Abigail ‘Blessed is your advice and blessed are you'” — the Book of Samuel) and our eighth president (she liked the “old-family, presidential ring” of Van Buren, says Margalit Fox in The New York Times).
Dear Abby: My boyfriend is going to be 20 years old next month. I’d like to give him something nice for his birthday. What do you think he’d like? — Carol
Dear Carol: Nevermind what he’d like, give him a tie.
Dear Abby: Our son married a girl when he was in the service. They were married in February and she had an 8 1/2-pound baby girl in August. She said the baby was premature. Can an 8 1/2-pound baby be this premature? — Wanting to Know
Dear Wanting: The baby was on time. The wedding was late. Forget it.
Dear Abby: Is it possible for a man to be in love with two women at the same time? — Jake
Dear Jake: Yes, and also hazardous.
Dear Abby: I’ve been going with this girl for a year. How can I get her to say yes? — Don
Dear Don: What’s the question?
Dear Abby: I’ve been going steady with this man for six years. We see each other every night. He says he loves me, and I know I love him, but he never mentions marriage. Do you think he’s going out with me just for what he can get? — Gertie
Dear Gertie: I don’t know. What’s he getting?
Dear Abby: My wife sleeps in the raw. Then she showers, brushes her teeth and fixes our breakfast — still in the buff. We’re newlyweds and there are just the two of us, so I suppose there’s really nothing wrong with it. What do you think? — Ed
Dear Ed: It’s O.K. with me. But tell her to put on an apron when she’s frying bacon.
Dear Abby: What’s the difference between a wife and a mistress? — Bess
Dear Bess: Night and Day.
Dear Abby: About four months ago, the house across the street was sold to a “father and son” — or so we thought. We later learned it was an older man about 50 and a young fellow about 24. This was a respectable neighborhood before this “odd couple” moved in. They have all sorts of strange-looking company. Men who look like women, women who look like men, blacks, whites, Indians. Yesterday I even saw two nuns go in there!… Abby, these weirdos are wrecking our property values! How can we improve the quality of this once-respectable neighborhood? — Up In Arms
Dear UP: You could move.
Dear Abby: I joined the Navy to see the world. I’ve seen it. Now, how do I get out?
Dear Navy: Simple. Go to your superior officer and say these 2 words: I’m Gay.
Dear Abby: I have always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can’t afford to spend a lot of money to do it. Have you any suggestions? — M.J.B. in Oakland, Calif.
Dear M.J.B.: Yes. Run for a public office.
Dear Abby: What inspires you most to write? — Ted
Dear Ted: The Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Dear Abby: Are birth control pills deductible? — Bertie
Dear Bertie: Only if they don’t work.
Dear Abby: I know boys will be boys, but my ‘boy’ is seventy-three and he’s still chasing women. Any suggestions? —Annie
Dear Annie: Don’t worry. My dog has been chasing cars for years, but if he ever caught one, he wouldn’t know what to do with it.
“Ann Landers” – Eppie Lederer, who as the syndicated columnist Ann Landers was widely considered responsible for bringing the advice column into the modern era, lived to the age of 83 and died in 2003.
Mrs. Lederer, who became Ann Landers in 1955, avoided the quavering prose and Victorian euphemism of an earlier generation of newspaper sob sisters in favor of hard-nosed, often witty, discussion of contemporary woes that, as she liked to say, ”would twirl your turban.”
She advised millions of readers on problems ranging from acne to alcoholism to AIDS, often in spirited competition with her identical twin sister, who wrote the advice column Dear Abby.
At the time of Mrs. Lederer’s death, her column was carried in more than 1,200 newspapers around the world, with a readership of 90 million, according to Creators Syndicate, her distributor. A 1978 World Almanac survey named her the most influential woman in the United States.
”I would rather have my column on a thousand refrigerator doors than win a Pulitzer,” she once said.
Dear Ann Landers,
I have never cheated on my wife and am absolutely certain that I never will. We have been married for five wonderful years, and our marriage is rock solid. Here’s the problem: About a year ago, during a moment of passion, I happened to call out the name of my wife’s best friend, “Annabelle.” You can imagine my wife’s reaction. Annabelle is single, in her early 20s and good-looking, and she has a terrific figure. She moved out of town three years ago. I made it clear to my wife that nothing ever went on between Annabelle and me and that calling her name was just part of a harmless fantasy. I tried to explain that fantasies are normal and I have no intention of acting them out. My wife accepted this explanation, and things seemed to be going well. Now comes the hard part. Annabelle visits us once a year and stays for a week. Her visit is coming up soon, and my wife has started to turn very cold. In fact, she’s downright hostile. I know she is afraid I will be attracted to Annabelle and feels threatened. What can I do to reassure her and get things back on track? — Faithful in Denver
Since you have had sexual fantasies about Annabelle, your wife has some justification for feeling a bit threatened. Start immediately to line up some attractive men for Annabelle to go out with when she is visiting you. Make sure you are never alone with your guest, and most importantly, concentrate on finding a substitute fantasy woman. (Any star of stage or screen will do.) And be especially affectionate to your wife in Annabelle’s presence. She will appreciate it.
Natalie Portman to Star in and Direct Dear Abby/Ann Landers Movie.