Tessa Thompson Will Play Jewel Thief Doris Payne

Photo: Getty.
Photo: Getty.

Tessa Thompson is taking on the role of Doris Payne, the (now) 87-year-old woman who’s pulled so many jewel heists she makes Danny Ocean look like a lazy chump.


Variety reported that “the film is conceived as a high-concept action-drama in the vein of Catch Me if You Can and The Thomas Crown Affair” and recounts the life of the woman, the legend, the myth:

In her six-decade long career, Payne, who is now 87, would enter jewelry stores posing as a well-to-do woman looking for a diamond ring and ask to see an assortment of items. Using her charm, she would eventually cause the clerk to forget how many pieces were outside the cases and leave with one or two pieces.

Payne’s criminal record dates back to the 1950s. She was arrested many times and has admitted to having used 20 aliases, 10 Social Security numbers, and nine dates of birth.


At one point Halle Berry was signed on to play Payne, but that project never got off the ground. Until this one actually makes its way into theaters, here’s the trailer for a 2013 documentary about her exploits, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne.

Senior Editor, Attic Haunter, Jezebel

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I have been a Tessa Thomson fanboy since Veronica Mars, and legitimately do not miss any movie she is in (even when she’s butchering an accent; see Thor: Ragnarok). Having said that, I’m actually kind of surprised they gave this role to someone biracial after the backlash from casting Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone. I know there were other issues at play in the Nina Simone movie (not the least of which was that Simone’s estate did not seemingly want Saldana in the role), but now every time I see a multi- or biracial actor, or other actor of color with arguably European-esque features, cast to play a non-fictional black person (i.e., someone whose actual likeness is a matter of historical record), it always occurs to me that it could trigger a backlash.