A little over a month following the world premiere of The Stanford Prison Experiment at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, IFC Films has stepped up and nabbed North American acquisition rights to the title. Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez (C.O.G.), the film details a controversial experiment by Dr. Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University in the early 1970s. Tim Talbott (veteran TV writer of shows including Chicago Fire and South Park) won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance for his screenplay; the film was adapted from Zimbardo’s book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. The film also won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at the Park City festival.
In the film, Billy Crudup (Watchmen) stars as Zimbardo, a psychologist who in 1971 began an experiment wherein 18 male undergraduate students assumed the roles of prisoners and abusive guards in a mock prison situation on the Stanford University campus. Outside of Crudup, The Stanford Prison Experiment boasts a strong ensemble that includes Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Olivia Thirlby (Juno), Tye Sheridan (Mud), Michael Angarano (Sky High), Ki Hong Lee (The Maze Runner), Moises Arias (The Kings of Summer), Johnny Simmons (21 Jump Street), Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Keir Gilchrist (It’s Kind of a Funny Story), James Frecheville (Animal Kingdom), and James Wolk (AMC’s Mad Men).
A cinematic take on this material has been in the works for a while, with a laundry list of directors and talent attached throughout the years. It appears the wait was worth it, considering the mostly positive reception the film received at Sundance. Leslie Felperin’s review in the The Hollywood Reporter said of the film, “For all its flaws it’s a rich, thought-provoking film which, while challenging, is not without humor and visual pleasures.” The Stanford Prison Experiment marks Alvarez’s third feature film following the 2013 indie C.O.G. and the 2009 drama Easier with Practice.
IFC Films hasn’t set up a release date for the title as of yet, however the distributor appears to planning both theatrical and VOD releases.