Arts & Culture

Natalie Portman Will Direct and Star as Identical Twins Ann Landers and Dear Abby in a New Film

The movie will center on the rivalry between the sisters, who were both advice columnists.

Natalie Portman is now set to direct and star in a new film about the drama between identical twins Esther Lederer and Pauline Phillips, better known as the voices behind the dueling "Dear Abby" and Ann Landers advice columns.

The film was penned by Katie Robbins, a producer on Showtime's The Affair, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and will be produced by the company that made Little Miss Sunshine. Portman will take on dual roles, portraying both twins.

Pauline Phillips and Esther Lederer, better known as Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers, at the 1997 National Press Foundation Awards dinner.

Born Esther Pauline and Pauline Esther Friedman in Sioux City, Iowa in 1918, the sisters reportedly grew up incredibly close, dressing identically and even sharing a bed as children. They married their beaus in a huge 700-guest double wedding, wearing matching dresses, veils, and hairstyles. They even shared their first foray into the advice world, co-authoring a column for Morningside College's school paper under a shared pen-name when they were students.

The closeness wasn't built to last, though. In 1955, Esther beat out dozens of other writers in a contest to land the pseudonymous Ann Landers advice column for the Chicago Sun-Times (she would later acquire the rights to the Landers name and move the column to the Chicago Tribune.)

Natalie Portman

Inspired by the heavily syndicated column, Pauline applied to write a new advice column for The San Francisco Chronicle, under the name Abigail Van Buren called "Dear Abby." It was an immediate success, making the twins one another's chief competition in national readership and sparking a complicated rivalry that would last for most of their lives.


It's not yet clear what the scope of the film will be, but with a story this steeped in history and emotion, it's certain to be popcorn-worthy.

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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