Col to tame ‘Lion’s Game’

Studio also picks DeMille's 'Plum'

NEW YORK — In an attempt to establish a new franchise character, Columbia Pictures has made an outright buy north of $1 million for the upcoming Nelson DeMille novel “The Lion’s Game.” The studio has also made a $500,000 against $1 million option deal for DeMille’s last novel, “Plum Island.”

The deal was made directly between SPE’s John Calley and DeMille’s longtime agent, Nick Ellison. Columbia will enlist as producer Mace Neufeld, who produced the DeMille novel “The General’s Daughter.”

DeMille is writing a sequel novel revolving around “General’s Daughter” protagonist Paul Brenner, the military investigator who will return to Vietnam on a case. Paramount gets first crack at the book and indications are that John Travolta is interested in reprising the role.

The bestselling “Plum Island” introduced “Lion’s Game” protagonist John Corey, a grizzled ex-NYPD homicide detective. In “Plum,” Corey is investigating a murder of research scientists who worked at an isolated disease containment research facility on the east end of Long Island. Screen rights to that book were withheld from the market by Ellison because DeMille knew he wanted to continue the character and didn’t want to tie down the franchise rights before some of the other in-the-works film adaptations of his works began to appear.

“The Lion’s Game,” which will hit bookstores this week from Warner Books, revolves around Corey’s investigation of an Arab terrorist who comes to the U.S. to avenge the murder of his family, which was wiped out in a covert bombing in Libya in 1986.

DeMille, who earned $5 million from Warner Books to write “The Lion’s Game,” has several back titles waiting for film treatment. They include “Gold Coast” at Castle Rock and “Word of Honor” with Dino De Laurentiis.

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