The Devil Inside
When former Paramount book scout Justin Evans ditched the industry for his Columbia M.B.A, he didn't kiss the book biz goodbye for good. After all, Evans is married to 13-year veteran agent Maria Massie of Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. Now the corporate v-p has dipped a foot back in the film world as well. Nick Wechsler Productions has optioned Evans's first book, A Good and Happy Child(Shaye Areheart, May 2007), a suspense novel about a malevolent demon who may—or may not—have possessed a mentally fragile young boy. White Noisescreenwriter Niall Johnson is finalizing a pitch to take to studios early '07. Artists Literary Group's Diana Bartoli and RWSH's Sylvie Rabineaurep Evans.
Producers that lost out to Paramount last week for journalist/author David Wise's upcoming Vanity Fair article about CIA intrigue may get to play spy games with Wise yet. For his next feature, the author of Nightmover: How Aldrich Ames Sold the CIA to the KGB for $4.6 Million (HarperCollins, 1995) and other spook books is eyeing the horrific death of Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian spy poisoned in London. Wise will likely expand the article to a book, providing potentially rich source material for this increasingly bizarre and very Hollywood story. Sterling Lord of Sterling Lord Literistic and Jody Hotchkiss rep Wise.
In a year lacking a single Harry Potter, Narniaor Lord of the Rings to conjure up box-office magic, books played a decidedly supporting role in the final 2006 tally. Still, prose played its part in putting this year's box office on track to squeak past 2005. For the last HR of 2006, we look at some of the notable adaptations of the year:
The Da Vinci Code: Catholic League president Bill Donohue may have publicly savored the vitriolic reviews that hammered the plodding pacing and wet chemistry between stars Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, but it was Sony executives who got the last laugh. With a domestic haul of over $217 million making it the top grossing book-to-film of 2006, The Da Vinci Codeproves the unstoppable power of the literary brand.
Casino Royale: Sure, the Cold War setting of Ian Fleming's 1953 Bond novel has given way to global terrorism and Daniel Craig is playing Texas hold 'em at the casino table, not baccarat (so last century), but in reinventing moviedom's oldest franchise, the producers wisely went back to the spare, pared-down Bond in the book that started it all. Next weekend's box office should add enough to the film's $129 million haul to push the 21st Bond installment into the year's top 10.
The Devil Wears Prada: Devil's producers figured out what Lauren Weisberger apparently did not—that Anna Wintour didn't get to be Anna Wintour without a lot of talent and tough personal choices along the way. The result? A transcendent, all-too-human performance by Meryl Streep, the third highest grossing adaptation of the year ($124 million) and the best speech about the color blue in film history.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints: Its $517,000 total domestic take isn't likely to send the movie tie-in to Dito Montiel's memoir of growing up in a tough Queens 'hood up the bestseller lists, but Montiel's prescient casting of fast-rising actor Channing Tatummay turn out to be the casting coup of 2006. Tatum (also the star of this year's Step Up) takes all of the promise and charisma of Brad Pitt in his 15-minute Thelma & Louise appearance and sustains it over an entire feature. The last opportunity to catch Hollywood's Next Big Thing in a low-budget indie film. Look for the DVD.
Hollywood Reader returns January 8.