NEW YORK — Corporate restructuring at New Line quickly took its toll on the development office Tuesday. One of the most crowed about book projects of recent years, Nick Hornby novel “About a Boy,” has reportedly been put into turnaround.
That signals a major about-face for New Line, which optioned the novel for $2.75 million three years ago, attached Hugh Grant and recently tapped Chris and Paul Weitz to direct it; the two are said to have just completed a script rewrite. If New Line dumped the book, they could take it elsewhere. But that wouldn’t endear the company to Hornby’s agent, Jenne Casaratto, who’s currently submitting his next book, “How to Be Good,” to studios.
New Line has long been one of the most vigorous players in the Gotham book market, but several projects are now in limbo there. Oscar-winning screenwriter Ted Tally has turned in his adaptation of Joe Lansdale’s noir Texas romp, “Mucho Mojo,” but cameras aren’t likely to roll before the strike deadline. The status of other high-profile books, like Dave Eggers’ “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” acquired for more than $2 million, and Jonathan Lethem’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” which comes with Edward Norton attached, remains unclear.
Lethem and Eggers have other irons in the fire, however. Three of Lethem’s previous books are in active development in Hollywood: “Gun, With Occasional Music” is set up at Regency Enterprises, to be adapted by Hampton Fancher, who helmed “The Minus Man” and was one of the writers of “Blade Runner” — an apt assignment given Lethem’s veneration of sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick. Lem Dobbs has written a screenplay for Lethem’s “As She Climbed Across the Table,” and British writer-director-producer Matthew Jacobs is said to be attached to “Amnesia Moon.”
Eggers and Lethem are also sidestepping the corporate publishing game, placing their next books with a new publishing imprint created under the flag of Eggers’ lit mag, McSweeney’s. The imprint will bring out Eggers’ next book, a novel, sometime after April, as well as a Lethem novella, “This Shape We’re In.” Lethem summarizes the plot as follows: “A band of down at the heels soldiers are trying to figure out whether they’re in jail, buried in an underground fallout shelter or in a spaceship hurtling through the void.” Though he’s quick to point out that he’s a “happy camper” at Doubleday, which will issue his next full-length novel, Lethem notes that “Shape” is something that would be virtually impossible to publish in other circumstances –“unless I nabbed the Folio spot in Harpers.”
LIT AGENTS WHO DON’T KNOW Scott Steindorff may soon be making the pilgrimage to Vegas to visit the head of Stone Village Prods., who in the last six months has emerged as one of the most aggressive buyers of high-caliber lit material in Hollywood.
Stone Village has just closed a deal, said to be worth $1 million, for Brad Thor’s “Lions of Lucerne,” a globetrotting spy thriller in which the president is kidnapped while skiing in Park City, Utah, and rescued by a young secret service agent.
Thor, an international adventurer who created and hosts his own PBS series, “Traveling Lite,” is being positioned as the next Sebastian Junger. He came to Steindorff from Writers and Artists’ Angela Cheng and Sanford Greenburger’s Heide Lange. “Lions” just sold to Pocket books in a three-book, seven-figure deal, and Stone Village bought the entire franchise and rights to the secret-service character, whom Thor calls a “younger, hipper, cooler James Ryan and James Bond.”
But “Lions” is the latest in a long succession of attention-grabbing book deals Steindorff has made lately, following “The Human Stain” by Philip Roth, set up at Lakeshore/Paramount; T.C. Boyle’s “Tortilla Curtain,” which is likely be independently financed; Tom Tryon bestseller “Night Magic,” a $45 million project to be financed by Eagle in Italy; and Reed Arvin’s new legal thriller, “The Will,” to be produced with Gene Simmons.
Steindorff is in the real estate business and creates Vegas shows. He wrote the Tommy Tune “EFX” show that ran at the MGM Grand two years back, and he has just sold a new show with Simmons, the details of which have not been released.
But Steindorff tells Daily Variety that his real passion is books. “I’ve been doing this a long time, but I just decided to go after the best authors, the best material and create a top company,” he said. “In real estate they always say ‘Location, location, location.’ In the movie biz, it’s ‘Story, story, story.’ “