Four years before The Descendants hit theaters, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (the latter is best known for playing Dean Pelton on Community) collaborated on The Way Back, a coming-of-age story that didn’t actually involve an epic journey from Russia to India. Paul Young soon picked it up for Fox Searchlight, and Shawn Levy was getting ready to helm the project. To put it in simpler terms: it was looking good. Problem is, this was 2007, and the WGA strike ended up screwing the project’s future for a little while.

Now, in 2011, it’s reported by Variety that producer Kevin Walsh has acquired the rights to the screenplay, now titled The Way, Way Back. (There is no way in hell Peter Weir‘s film didn’t lead to that slightly extended title.) In some cases, a producer getting their hands on a script might only mean that it’s getting added to a big stack of projects to be made at one point or another — just not in the foreseeable future. In this case, however, it means that Jake Gyllenhaal is currently in talks to star; the screenwriters will direct it themselves; and Shawn Levy, Mandate Pictures, and Principato-Young are all producing. Things seem to be back in business.

ThePlaylist provides a brief synopsis of the story, telling us that it follows “a teenage boy, who over the course of an extraordinary summer forms a friendship that gives him the strength to stand up to his bullying stepfather and reconnect with his mother.” For some reason — possibly because I was thinking about my love of this film the other day — I’m getting a Stand by Me vibe here. Meanwhile, based purely on his age, Gyllenhaal can’t play anybody other than the stepfather — unless they want to take a Walk Hard approach, which I wouldn’t be entirely apprehensive about. Heck, Faxon even had a small part in that film.

It would be remiss not to mention some concerns over a lack of directing credits on the part of either writer, but I would contend that nobody knows more about the screenplay — and, most importantly, how it should be visually presented — than the men who wrote it. (Yes, even you, Shawn Levy.) I’m thus interested in seeing what they can do with their own material, and I’m also hoping Gyllenhaal decides to sign on. Perhaps that latter part is for selfish reasons; he’s an actor I like, but who I can’t see most of the time, as many of his films hold almost zero appeal for me. If that can help change things, then I’ll be supporting this through and through.

Does The Way, Way Back sound like good material for Gyllenhaal? How do you feel about the writers directing their own screenplay?

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