Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Books-To Film

The Five Top-Selling Novels Now Headed for the Silver Screen March 07, 2005
By Chuck Shelton

Five of the novels whose film rights were most recently acquired are ranked here in order of sales figures, as reported by Nielsen BookScan, for the week ending Feb. 27.
1. THE KNOWN WORLD, Edward P. Jones (Amistad, Paperback, 0060557559)
2. JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury, Hardcover, 1582344167)
3. LITTLE EARTHQUAKES, Jennifer Weiner (Atria, Hardcover, 0743470095)
4. MIDNIGHT FOR CHARLIE BONE, Jenny Nimmo (Orchard, Hardcover, 0439474299)
5. THE HA-HA, Dave King (Little, Brown, Hardcover, 0316156108).

As you can read here in The Book Standard’s Weekly Books-to-Film Deals Roundup, the Feb. 25–announced acquisition of last week’s top-selling book-to-film literary property, Edward P. Jones’s The Known World: "John Wells Prods., with Wells and writer/performer Anna Deavere Smith producing, will adapt The Known World, Edward P. Jones’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel about free black Americans who owned slaves, which was also a bestseller—it sold 276,000 copies year-to-date in paperback, according to BookScan. Two months before its publication, Kirkus Reviews said of it: " ‘. . . should be a major prize contender, and it won’t be forgotten.’ " Smith is also set to pen the screenplay.

Also in this week’s deals report from The Book Standard, the #2 top-selling novel-to-film is the epic fantasy phenomenon Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: "New Line Cinema scores big with the upcoming adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s bestselling Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which has sold 209,000 copies in hardcover since its September ’04 publication, according to Nielsen BookScan. Christopher Hampton will adapt. The epic story revolves around a magician and his apprentice who use their powers to battle Napoleon, but are soon pitted against each other. Kirkus Reviews called it "one of the finest fantasies ever written."

Chick-lit has for the past few years very successfully fed the chick-film engine, and, with Little Earthquakes, novelist Jennifer Weiner delivers the latest lit for Elizabeth Kruger and Craig Shapiro to film-produce. Universal bought the rights for the duo at Double Feature, with the mavericks-turned-establishment-managers/producers Chris Bender and J.C. Spink—the Benderspink boys—attached to co-produce. Currently in the very early development stage. Producers have not yet tapped a screenwriter. Kirkus Review on Weiner’s novel, from Atria Books: "[The book] follows four Philadelphia women as they face the challenges, from trivial to profound, of new motherhood, becoming friends in the process. . . . Weiner pulls her punches with a too-neat ending." Typical—and popular—recipe for the Bridget Jones crowd. Since its publication last Sept., the book has sold 85,000 year-to-date, according to BookScan. The trade paperback reprint is scheduled for July release.

In the No. 4 sales spot for future books-to-film fiction adaptations, the immensely popular YA novel Midnight for Charlie Bone was picked up by Warners, on behalf of Thunder Road’s Basil Iwanyk and Alysia Cotter, who will produce. They’ve enlisted Neil Alsip, a former writer for The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, to pen the script. Kirkus Reviews was not terribly impressed with the novel, which was published by Orchard Books, saying: "Charlie’s adventure adds up to a formulaic, thinly disguised placeholder for the next Harry Potter." That can’t be bad news for filmmakers, though, since Harry’s adventures are few and far between. Young filmmakers will most likely more than welcome a Potter placeholder. Since its publication in March ’03, the book has sold nearly 106,000 copies.

The preternaturally busy screenwriter and producer Akiva Goldsman—he’s currently adapting The Da Vinci Code and wrapping up Memoirs of a Geisha, for which he also wrote the script—will possibly make his directorial debut with Dave King’s first novel, The Ha-Ha. Goldsman is also producing. Calls to his production company, Weed Road Productions, regarding whether he’d also pen the script, went unreturned. No other screenwriter has yet been announced. The film rights were bought by Warners for Weed Road. The book, published by Little, Brown, concerns a Vietnam vet, now mute and unable to write, whose former girlfriend upends his life by leaving her son with him as she heads to rehab. Starring, we’d venture, Russell Crowe and the greatly underappreciated Jennifer Jason Leigh.


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