Stephen King has sold the screen rights to his next novel, “The Dreamcatcher,” to Castle Rock Entertainment for a film that will be scripted by William Goldman. The deal marks the seventh collaboration between King and Castle Rock, and the third King/CR pic to be scripted by Goldman, who wrote “Misery” and most recently “Hearts in Atlantis,” which will be put into production by CR on Sept. 25 with Scott Hicks directing and Anthony Hopkins starring.
As is his usual practice for a CR deal, King was paid $1 upfront for his novel, with the promise of a seven-figure check and a gross participation when the film is greenlit. The King/CR relationship has been a seminal one for both parties, as it has led to some of that studio’s biggest hits, and elevated King from scare fare to prestige product. CR and King collaborated on “Stand By Me,” “Dolores Claiborne,” “Misery,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” and most recently “The Green Mile,” the latter of which was CR’s highest worldwide grosser, with nearly $300 million in receipts and multiple Oscar nominations.
“The Dreamcatcher,” which will be published next summer by Scribner, involves a quartet of great friends who bonded as boys when they performed a truly heroic act and were given a strange gift as a reward. Years later, they reunite under unusual circumstances for another heroic quest: to use that power to defeat a mysterious enemy. The novel combines the bonding elements of “Stand By Me” with the mysticism and supernatural elements of “The Green Mile.”
CR Pictures president Martin Shafer confirmed the deal, and said the new novel’s strongest suit was its fully developed characters. “While Stephen has always been best known for writing horror, characters like Red (Morgan Freeman) in ‘Shawshank,’ John Coffey (Michael Clark Duncan) in ‘Green Mile’ have been the strength of these movies,” said Shafer. “He’s a great storyteller, period, even when he works outside that genre.” With “Hearts in Atlantis” and the Frank Darabont-directed Jim Carrey-starrer “Bijou” now poised for quick production starts, CR is in the midst of one of its most prolific periods, with 10 films either starting or recently wrapped.
King was repped by CAA, Goldman by William Morris.
STEPPENWOLF STEPPING UP: As it hits its 25th anniversary as one of the country’s most prestigious stage concerns, Chicago-based Steppenwolf Theater Company is stepping up to become a player in film and TV. STC has signed with the management company Pure Arts, which will help it facilitate films and series involving its stories and repertory company members. That’s a list that includes John Malkovich, Gary Sinise, Joan Allen, Laurie Metcalf, Glenne Headley, Terry Kinney and John Mahoney.
Alan Somers, who with Mark Teitelbaum will manage the venture for Pure Arts, said STC already has two series ideas in play. One is a Steppenwolf Presents anthology series; another is an hour drama that’s further evidence of the seemingly endless well of programming possibilities revolving around John Malkovich.
Following closely on the heels of “Being John Malkovich” is “Benton Evening News,” a series loosely based on the Malkovich family’s newspaper dynasty in Benton, Ill. “It provides the foundation for a really good story, the siblings in this newspaper dynasty,” said Somers. “Some of the family members stayed to run the paper, while others, like John, left their hometown to seek fame and fortune.” The project was hatched by Mandy Malkovich, John’s sister and an STC member, who came up with the idea during a conversation with Martha Plimpton and Erin Quigley. The production company will be run out of Chicago by founding member Jeff Perry and execs Martha Lavey, Michael Gennaro and Tim Evans. STC will likely seek an overall TV deal, but Somers said the company will be selective to keep up the good name the theater company has built on the stage.
SHERIDAN OUT: Scratch director Jim Sheridan from “The Notebook,” New Line’s adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks bestseller. Sheridan has formally moved away from that project, to which he had been aligned for nearly two years, writing a couple of drafts and supervising Jeremy Leven on others. Sheridan is now concentrating on Fox 2000’s adaptation of the Wally Lamb novel “I Know This Much is True,” which he and Matt Damon became interested in recently as a possible collaboration, with Damon playing dual roles of twin brothers. Sheridan also continues to develop a semiautobiographical tale of his migration from Ireland to New York, which recently came back to him after being put in turnaround by Universal.
SUB SIGNS: The submarine drama “U-571” has begun opening in foreign territories, despite the uncomfortable proximity to the recent Soviet sub disaster.
Director Jonathan Mostow and producer Hal Lieberman said the reaction to the film has been strong after it opened at the Venice and Deauville fests. “We had a minute of silence at Venice for the memory of the submariners, and the film got a standing ovation,” said Mostow. “There had been some criticism in territories that the film was somehow capitalizing on the accident, but most people realize these dates and campaigns are locked in six months in advance.”
Mostow and Lieberman are zeroing in the next pic, which could be the Paramount-based “Seconds.” Mostow is determined to direct a pic before the anticipated strike next summer by actors and writers.