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Granada preps classics

Wharton, Hemingway works highlight made-for slate

Edith Wharton’s “The Custom of the Country,” Ernest Hemingway’s “After the Storm” and Lorenzo Carcaterra’s “A Safe Place” topline Granada Entertainment USA’s first slate of original telefilms for network and cable TV.

Granada earlier this year inked a deal with Showtime to co-finance 13 telefilms, seven of which fall under the “Great American Novels of the 20th Century” banner (Daily Variety, March 12). “The Custom of the Country” and “After the Storm,” as well as “The Comfort Zone,” are all in development at Showtime and are expected to be the first Granada films under that pact.

Granada was still putting the final touches on its deal for “After the Storm” late Monday.

Also in development are “Road to Kensington” for Lifetime and “A Safe Place” for ABC. Two films have previously been greenlit and announced by A&E — “Dash & Lilly,” which is in pre-production, and “Murder in a Small Town,” which has begun production in Toronto.

Granada also has optioned rights to several other classic literary properties, including George Orwell’s “1984,” which Granada plans to release in conjunction with the book’s 50th anniversary. Other works in the early stages of development are from Henry James, Wharton and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“We tried to find stories that hadn’t been done three or four times,” said Scott Siegler, president of Granada Entertainment USA. “No one has done ‘After the Storm,’ and ‘Custom of the Country’ has one of the most amazing, ruthless female leads.”

Granada’s slate of films is heavy on classics, and several have a British connection, in hopes that they will appeal in Granada Media Group’s home country, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere abroad.

“The challenging thing is to be true to the novels, but make them as contemporary as possible,” said Rob Rovner, who heads Granada’s longform division along with Jon Cowan.

“The Custom of the Country” is based on Wharton’s 1913 novel about an unscrupulous woman who leaves her roots in the Midwest to become a ruthless social climber in New York and Paris.

‘Storm’ brews

The telefilm version of “After the Storm” will be A.E. Hotchner’s adaptation of the Hemingway short story about an American drifter who discovers sunken treasure in the Bahamas. It will be produced by Nelle Nugent and Norman Stevens.

“A Safe Place” for ABC is based on author Carcaterra’s true story of his own survival at the hands of a brutal father and his discovery that his father was a murderer. Carcaterra and Roni Weisberg (“Promised a Miracle”) are executive producing, and Ken Friedman (“Cadillac Man”) is set to write.

“Road to Kensington” is one of the first telefilms in development at Lifetime from an outside supplier. Lifetime is owned by Disney, and the cabler’s films were previously produced almost exclusively by Hearst and ABC Prods. This film, in fact, was originally in development at ABC Prods., which was recently dismantled because its functions overlapped with ABC’s parent company, Disney.

“Road” is about four women from vastly diverse social stations who are drawn together by the death of Princess Diana. Lisa Loomer (“Hearts Afire”) is writing, and Susan Cartsonis and Wind Dancer Films are producing.

“The Comfort Zone” for Showtime was inspired by the true story of a young, successful professional who finds he is adopted and leaves Manhattan to search for his family in England. Tim Kazurinsky (“Three Men and a Little Lady”) will write the script.

Literary romance

The true-life love story of writers Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammet, A&E’s “Dash & Lilly,” was written by Jerry Ludwig and will be produced by Stan Margulies (“Roots”) and directed by Kathy Bates. “Murder in a Small Town,” a light mystery set in 1939 Connecticut, stars Gene Wilder and was co-written by Wilder and Gilbert Pearlman.

Siegler, Granada’s international drama head Antony Root, Cowan and Rovner will all share executive producing credits on the projects.

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