‘Beautiful’ day for U, Imagine

Companies pay $1 mil for rights to Nasar book

NEW YORK — Imagine Films and Universal paid $1 million for the screen rights to Sylvia Nasar’s “A Beautiful Mind,” the true story of John Forbes Nash Jr., a genius who developed into one of the country’s most accomplished thinkers before becoming a paranoid schizophrenic. Brian Grazer will produce.

Nasar’s book has been coveted by numerous studios since early this year because of its similarities to “Shine.” A triumph over adversity story, “Beautiful Mind” tells of a brilliant man with matinee-idol good looks who becomes mentally ill but overcomes his condition in time to receive a Nobel Prize.

The film was hardly an easy sale, as Nash, who withdrew from academia and was eventually divorced from his wife because of his condition, proved reluctant to entrust his story to Hollywood. And CAA’s Robert Bookman, who had represented the book since early in the year, would not sell the story without Nash’s blessing.

During the time Nash wouldn’t respond to Hollywood suitors, several studios were ready to pony up seven-figure sums, with Universal leading the chase on behalf of director Martin Brest. But Nash had a change of heart when he aligned with Gotham-based attorney Andrew Hurwitz, who is credited with getting the project moving again. By that time, Brest had bowed out, but Imagine’s Grazer wanted the book and had the clout to get Universal to bid for it, beating out two other studios.

Literary agent Kathy Robbins repped Nasar, a New York Times reporter who wrote the book for Simon & Schuster. CAA’s Bookman then closed the U sale, with Imagine Films co-chairman Karen Kehela and vice president Maureen Peyrot instrumental in the deal.

“Beautiful Mind” is the second Imagine project involving a schizophrenic protagonist based on a true story. The first, “Laws of Madness,” tells the life story of Michael Laudor, who came down with schizophrenia but overcame it to complete law school and become an attorney. That project was to have Chris Gerolmo directing Brad Pitt, but it took a tragic turn when Laudor relapsed and killed his girlfriend and their unborn child. It is unclear now whether the project will ever be filmed.

Unlike Laudor’s, Nash’s story is an inspirational one, with a starring role likely to be a magnet for young leading men.

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