Something to Howl About

Howl's Moving Castle may not have scored a Best Animated Feature Oscar last Sunday, but Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki will likely have another shot at the prize with his newest project. The groundbreaking animator has just optioned the rights to Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea cycle—which consists of the novels A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind—after a year of negotiations. Chronicling the maturation of Sparrowhawk, an awkward boy who becomes a wizard's apprentice, the sci-fi books will be combined into one epic film by Miyazaki, a longtime favorite of Le Guin (who has openly bashed 2004's Legend of Earthsea, a Sci-Fi Channel adaptation starring Shawn Ashmore and Isabella Rossellini, based on the same series). "Most animators settle for slick escapism, but Miyazaki's art is beautiful, and his morality is both sweet and complicated," the author said. "My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away show most clearly what I love in [his] work." Brandt & Hochman's Bill Contardi represented both works on behalf of the Virginia Kidd Agency's Vaughne Lee Hansen, who reps Le Guin.


Brad Pitt, space-traveling priest? Warner Brothers has optioned the rights to Mary Doria Russell's debut novel, The Sparrow (Villard, 1996) for the Mr. & Mrs. Smith actor's Plan B film shingle. Screenwriter Michael Seitzman (North Country) is set to adapt. The WB picked up the futuristic project, which concerns a Jesuit linguist named Father Emilio Sandoz and his secret expedition to observe signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life, after initial rights-holder Universal let its option on the book lapse.... London-based Material Entertainment has optioned Anthony Capella's The Wedding Officer, due out in the U.K. from Time Warner Books next month. Set in Naples, the WWII romance revolves around naïve officer James Gouding, who finds himself interviewing potential Italian fiancées for members of the armed forces. Capella's previous novel, The Food of Love (Viking, 2004), was optioned by Di Novi Pictures for director Peter Chelsom, who's currently developing the modern-day (and food-obsessed) Cyrano de Bergerac story.