STUDIO STORY DEPARTMENTS ARE awash in manuscripts by trendy new writers that cost huge sums to option but may never emerge from development hell.
But some of the most successful book adaptations in recent years — from “Get Shorty” to “I Know What You Did Last Summer” — were overlooked by Hollywood when they first came out, only to be scooped off a publisher’s backlist later by a thrifty producer who discerned within them a good Hollywood storyline.
Sydney Pollack, who exec produced one long-dormant tale, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” plans to resurrect another one, this time in conjunction with Peter Rosen Prods. Backed by Intermedia, Rosen Prods. and Pollack’s Mirage Entertainment have struck a six-figure deal for the 1981 William Brinkley novel “Peeper.”
The story of a quiet Texas town unsettled by the arrival of a Peeping Tom, the book is one of several tomes by the late Brinkley to be optioned by Hollywood, the best-known being “Don’t Go Near the Water.”
Over the years, “Peeper” has been optioned by Kate Jackson, Ron Howard and Rosen, an Emmy and DGA award-winning producer-director for the docu “Here to Make Music.” Rosen, who’s optioned the book before, has been trying to make “Peeper” since 1986. “Because the book is about a Peeping Tom, we went through a period in the ’80s when people were uptight about the material,” he said. “But the time is right now for this kind of material.”
Anne Rapp (“Dr. T and the Women”) is writing the script, and the film will roll as an Intermedia/Mirage production if all parties involved like the results.
Ralph Millero, who will receive a production credit, brought the property into Mirage.
Jodie Hotchkiss at Sterling Lord Litteristic repped Brinkley.
ADAM GOPNIK IS JUST THE LATEST writer to fill the prolific shoes of longtime New Yorker Paris correspondent Janet Flanner. Like Flanner, Gopnik has collected his dispatches, which appeared in the magazine under the rubric “Paris Journal,” between hardcovers. But Gopnik has one up on Flanner: His story is now destined for the screen and he’s been hired to write the script.
Miramax has optioned “Paris to the Moon,” Gopnik’s collection of writings on such things as bistro cuisine, French anxiety over globalization and the idiosyncrasies of French child care. The Miramax project, optioned for an undisclosed sum, is likely to focus on the book’s most personal dimension: Gopnik’s own family’s often humorous efforts to adjust to French life in the five years he served there.
“Paris to the Moon,” out from Random House, is a current New York Times bestseller. Miramax veep of creative affairs Jennifer Wachtel brought the book to the company.
VIVENDI CHIEF JEAN-MARIE MESSIER may have the international cachet to grace the cover of Business Week, but he apparently has no clout with American publishers.
Close to a dozen houses have considered “j6m.com,” Messier’s outspoken memoir of his tenure at the top of the company that now owns Universal Studios, and most of them have already passed.
The book, which begins with a conversation between Messier and Bertelsmann head Thomas Middelhoff, examines the business dealings and back-room negotiations of Vivendi and the increasingly tight ranks of transnational companies that are now carving up the international media map.
“One would think that in our current climate of globalization, the American public would be curious to know that other countries can play the same game and well enough to make their mark on Hollywood,” said Kathryn Nanovic-Morlet of the French Publishers’ Agency.
The point hasn’t been lost on the French public. “j6m.com” is a bestseller there.
BOUNTY HUNTERS and treasure hunters are hot topics at the Trident Media Group. Trident head Robert Gottlieb and agent Matt Bialer have placed “Shadow of the Sentinel” by journalist Warren Getler and professional Confederate loot hunter Bob Brewer, with Simon & Schuster in a six-figure deal.
Producers Betsy Stahl (“Lost Souls”) and Cari-Esta Albert (“The Truth About Cats and Dogs”) control film rights and plan to develop the project as a feature.
“Shadow” chronicles Brewer’s lifelong search for millions of dollars worth of Confederate money that’s buried in what he estimates are 1,600 secret sites across America.
Simon & Schuster editor Bob Bender acquired the manuscript.
Gottlieb, meanwhile, has placed a nonfiction book about bounty hunters by thriller writer Janet Evanovich with St. Martin’s Press.
Evanovich is the author of a series of novels about fictional bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, the last of which, “Hot Six,” topped bestseller lists last summer. Wendy Finerman Prods. owns rights to the character, Stephanie Plum.
Evanovich’s new book, her first nonfiction effort, is full of anecdotal information and details about the origins of her series heroine.
ACTOR ARLISS HOWARD (“Full Metal Jacket”) is in post-production on “Big Bad Love,” an indie production that Howard directed from author Larry Brown’s eponymous short story collection.
Shot in Mississippi, pic features a diverse ensemble cast, including Debra Winger (who’s married to Howard), Rosanna Arquette, Angie Dickinson, Paul Le Mat and a cameo appearance by the author. Howard’s brother, Jim, wrote the script.
A true publishing original, Brown was a fireman who worked odd jobs for years, suffering through more than 200 rejection letters before landing a publisher for his hard-bitten Southern fiction.
Brown is repped by Liz Darhansoff of Darhansoff and Verill and Lynn Pleshette of the Lynn Pleshette Literary Agency.