Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan is set to team up with HBO and Game of Thrones director Michelle MacLaren to create the pilot for a new series based on infamous cult leader Jim Jones. The Hollywood Reporter also revealed academy award winning actress Octavia Spencer, who initially secured the rights to Tim Reiterman’s nonfiction “Raven: The Untold Story of Jim Jones and His People”, will take on the role of executive producer.
Reiterman’s novel is considered the most accurate account on how Jim Jones formed and became the leader of Jonestown, formally known as The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, in northwestern Guyana.
Jones had a lonely childhood and he spent most of his time studying Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler – noting the strengths and weaknesses of each. Those that knew him as a child said he was a “really weird kid” who was “obsessed with religion … obsessed with death”. They also recalled Jones holding a funeral for a cat he had stabbed to death at his parent’s home.
During his adult life, Jones started building Jonestown that he claimed was a “socialist paradise” and a “sanctuary.” He did not permit members to ever leave Jonestown and he preached a belief called “Translation, where he and his followers would all die together, move to another planet and live blissfully.
In 1978, Reiterman was one of the journalists who went to investigate Jonestown alongside Congressman Leo Ryan, after worried families of the cult members expressed their concerns. Sadly, the trip did not go to plan and the journalists were ambushed and killed at the Guyana airstip – Reiterman was shot but he survived his injuries.
Immediately after the ambush, Jim Jones instructed his followers to commit mass suicide. 909 members, including 304 children, lost their lives to cyanide poisoning. This was the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act before September 11, 2001.