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Del Toro to helm ‘Spanky’ for U

Following the brooding thematic strings of his sci-fi pic “Cronos,” which bowed at Sundance this year, 28-year-old Mexican helmer Guillermo del Toro next will adapt and direct Christopher Fowler’s dark novel “Spanky” for Universal.

Universal optioned the book for $ 50,000 against $ 250,000, and has hired del Toro to adapt and helm.

No producer has been slotted yet.

David Gersh of the Gersh Agency and manager Steven Siebert of Lighthouse Entertainment, who rep del Toro, made the rookie filmer’s deal late last week.

Though several majors were in the running for the property, Universal’s VP of production Nina Jacobson secured the deal for the studio; she is long said to have wanted del Toro aboard for a feature and will shepherd the project.

Soul-selling yuppie

“Spanky” was penned by Brit horror writer Christopher Fowler, who is repped by Writers & Artists’ Marti Blumenthal. The Faustian book chronicles the downward spiral of a greedy yuppie who sells his soul to an imaginary friend-turned-devil named Spanky in return for success and material wealth.

Meanwhile, del Toro is independently developing two titles of his own, including the urban drama “Meat Market: A Love Story.” The October Films-distribbed “Cronos” bows in Gotham March 30 and goes wider, including Los Angeles, in April.

Del Toro’s $ 2 million-budgeted “Cronos” copped nine of Mexico’s prestigious Ariel awards last year, including best picture, best director and best original screenplay, and also nabbed the International Critics’ Award in Cannes.

Evil device

“Cronos” is about a device created by a 16th-century alchemist that gives eternal life to whoever touches it — but for a price: Inside the Cronos device is a creature that also turns the newly tapped immortals into vampires.

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