Hollywood abuzz with Grisham novel leak

NEW YORK — In what is becoming a tradition each time he writes a book, John Grisham’s newly finished novel has been leaked in galley form well before its publication date, creating a stampede among film rights buyers.

That’s even though — just like last time — the screen rights are not for sale, and even though there are indica-tions that at least one studio’s already willing to pay the standing Grisham asking price of $8 million.

The novel is called “The Street Lawyer,” and if pitched as a movie, might be called “Jerry Maguire” meets “The Rainmaker.” The protagonist, fast-track attorney Michael Brock, succumbs to a major crisis of conscience after a hostage-taking incident at his firm involving a homeless man.”The Street Lawyer” will be published in February by Doubleday. But just as was the case with Grisham’s last novel, “The Partner,” the leak won’t hasten a film deal.

“I’ve heard that it leaked, and frankly, I really don’t care,” said David Gernert, Grisham’s agent and editor. “The film rights are not for sale. I know that position disappoints a lot of people, but that’s where we are. The film rights for ‘The Partner’ have never been for sale, even though there were a couple of people who wanted them so badly, I felt I had to run every time they saw me.”

The leaking of Grisham galleys began with “The Rainmaker,” the current critics’ favorite, helmed by Francis Ford Coppola. An unedited version of the manuscript leaked and was viciously panned in coverage from an unnamed studio. That critique was widely passed around Hollywood and so angered Grisham that he canceled the auction. Grisham is obviously handling the latest leak better, maybe because this time the leak was a final edit and early feedback is quite good.

Gernert said that just like last time, the rights auction will be shelved until the author feels that the logjam of Grisham-screen transformations have cleared.

“There was a moment where there were three films either in production or pre-production, and after ‘A Time to Kill’ and ‘The Chamber’ fell within such close proximity, John felt there was just too much going on.”

Grisham was delighted with the pic “The Rainmaker.” Since then, “The Runaway Jury,” which sold for $8 million to Warner Bros., fell apart when director Joel Schumacher dropped out and the cast of Sean Connery, Edward Norton and Gwyneth Paltrow disbanded. Just as Coppola rewrote Grisham’s “Rainmaker” script, Robert Altman did the same with “The Gingerbread Man,” an Island Film which, despite anxious moments when Altman nearly pulled his name off the film, is generating OK word of mouth.

Grisham himself was unavailable to commment. Said Gernert: “Believe it or not, he’s started another novel.” Which, of course, studios will read this time next year.

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