Ron Howard to make movie on Middletown grad’s ‘Hillbilly Elegy’

Author J. D. Vance was the keynote speaker during the Middletown Community Foundation annual awards banquet held at Miami Valley Gaming, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Vance is the author of New York Times Bestseller, Hillbilly Elegy. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
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Author J. D. Vance was the keynote speaker during the Middletown Community Foundation annual awards banquet held at Miami Valley Gaming, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Vance is the author of New York Times Bestseller, Hillbilly Elegy. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

The story about a man’s upbringing in Middletown and in rural Kentucky in struggling Rust Belt towns that became a best-selling memoir is heading to the big screen.

“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” written by J.D. Vance, will become a movie to be directed and produced by Ron Howard, according to a report in Rolling Stone magazine.

The best-selling book was a primer for national political pundits leading up to — and especially after — President Donald Trump’s election.

Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan said he would expect some outreach from the Cincinnati or Ohio film commissions might occur but added that it may be too early in the process.

MORE: Middletown native J.D. Vance's book started with simple question

Vance, 32, graduated from Middletown High School and told this news outlet that the idea for his book came from questioning his ascendancy from low-income, Appalachian roots to Yale Law School.

“Why did I feel so out of place? Why are people here (Yale) so unlike me?” Vance said.

Previous sociological and political books on America’s largely white, lower income class tended to examine the population, its culture and its struggles through the conventional prisms of either liberal or conservative ideology. But Vance said he wanted to write a book that included both perspectives and, most importantly, his own experiences.

MORE: Here's what Vance's next book will focus on

“People are much more complex,” he said of the limitations that come with ideologically themed books. “I decided to make these problems real by writing about real people,” including the struggles within his family and his personal challenges growing up.

“I was hoping somebody would pick up the book and think to themselves, ‘Wow, this is a complicated problem and these are complicated people — and most of all, these are good people,’” Vance said.

The unusual formula worked as the book shot to the top of best-selling lists, putting the Middletown grad, a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, Ohio State University graduate, and businessman, on numerous TV networks including Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and CNBC. He has also been making appearances at various functions such as the Butler County GOP’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner. He was tapped to be Middletown High School’s graduation speaker later this spring and will be speaking at the Think Regional Southwest Ohio Leadership Summit on April 28.

MORE: Vance's non-profit to tackle problems addressed in 'Hillbilly Elegy'

Vance recently moved back to Ohio from California to launch a nonprofit organization.

This report contains previous reporting by Staff Writer Michael D. Clark.

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