By Indiana Nash
NISKAYUNA — When Matt Stopera, a Niskayuna native and a BuzzFeed senior editor lost his phone in a New York City bar during happy hour two years ago, the only thing he expected out of the situation was a new phone.
Two years later, Stopera not only got a new phone, but internet fame, an unexpected friendship which turned later turned into an international bromance and, most recently, a movie deal with Ellen DeGeneres.
It was. And that’s exactly what drew so many people into his story when he first posted about it on Buzzfeed in 2015.
“I’m sitting on my couch with some friends going through my photo stream on my new phone. That’s when I see a ton of pictures I didn’t take, most memorably about 20 selfies of some dude and an orange tree. Hilarious and scary,” wrote Stopera in his post.
It turned out that someone in China had purchased his stolen phone.
Stopera went to the Apple store and had his accounts severed or ‘bricked-off’ from his previous phone.
But the story was far from over.
After he had posted his story on Buzzfeed, thousands of people from China begin trying to connect with Stopera.
He became one of the most talked about people on Chinese social media.
Many of the people who were tweeting him wanted to help him connect with the person who had his old phone.
Eventually, he was found on Twitter under the username Brother Orange.
Stopera, who was completely caught off guard by how fast the story had grown, began to converse with Brother Orange and they struck up a friendship.
Then Stopera took the big step and visited Brother Orange in Meizhou, China, where he was met by paparazzi and more fame than he imagined.
Brother Orange also came to visit Niskayuna, where he was shown Stewart’s ice cream and a few of Stopera’s favorite spots.
After appearing with Brother Orange on The Ellen DeGeneres show in 2015, Stopera is now partnering with DeGeneres on a film about his unlikely story.
“It’s a modern day fairy tale, with the phone being like Cinderella’s slipper or something,” Stopera said.
To write the storyline for the film, Stopera will work with Brother Orange and several writers (including Ilana Glazer from Comedy Central’s “Broad City”) to create one of the first “truly bilingual films,” as Stopera puts it.
“There has never been a friendship that started out like this. It’s truly unique … My character doesn’t speak Chinese and Brother Orange’s character doesn’t speak English,” Stopera said.
Yet, he describes their friendship as being strong. “There are so many things you can communicate nonverbally,” said Stopera.
It’s also important to Stopera that the character of Brother Orange is well-written and executed.
“His character is so great … he reminds me of a cast member on Housewives of New Jersey … He is always asking if I want food or if I’m comfortable and he’s friends with everyone,” Stopera said.
The movie will be produced by Warner Bros. along with Flagship Entertainment, a venture between China Media Capital and Warner Bros. that will make the film available in China.
Stopera hopes that Ryan Gosling will play his on-screen character and that Jackie Chan will play Brother Orange’s.
“It’s so cinematic already … This whole thing, you just can’t make it up,” said Stopera.