Grandmother Jewel Thief Doris Payne’s Life Being Made Into Movie

The long-rumored biopic about Doris Payne, the now octogenarian known for her six decades of jewel thefts, looks like a go.

Tessa Thompson, known for Thor: Ragnarok, Creed, and Selma, has signed on to star as the notoriously indefatigable career criminal who is believed to have committed hundreds of thefts, according to Variety. The film is being produced by Codeblack Films, a division of Lionsgate.

At one point it was reported a film based on Payne’s life would star Halle Berry. Payne was already the subject of a 2103 documentary, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne.

In October, the now 87-year-old Payne avoided jail time after being nabbed for shoplifting at a Georgia Walmart. She has been arrested at least five times in the last decade.

Jewelers’ Security Alliance president John Kennedy, who has called Payne the “longest lasting jewelry criminal” he has ever tracked, has some concerns about the film.

“It’s an interesting story and it’s a very unusual story,” he says. “The way they spin it is the issue. If they try and glorify her, I would be very unhappy. I would hope they include the great unhappiness she has caused owners and retailers.”

JCK has spoken to several of Payne’s victims over the years, most of whom admitted they were taken in by her soft-spoken, grandmotherly demeanor.

“You don’t suspect her because she is elderly,” said one. “I have to give her credit: She is excellent at what she does.”

Another time a jeweler recognized her before she struck.

“As she was walking out, I walked up to her and said, ‘Are you Doris Payne?’ ” she recalls. “And she said no. But she kind of had a little smile on her face. And then I wagged my finger, and said, ‘Yes, you are.’ And then she winked and smiled and turned on her heels and walked away.”

(Image from the 2013 documentary The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne, courtesy of Peter Holland)


JCK News Director