U lines ‘Cloud’ with coin

Matsuoka's debut novel nabs U deal, foreign rights sales

In an uncommonly lavish deal for a first novel by an unknown writer, Universal has paid seven figures to acquire Takashi Matsuoka’s debut, “Cloud of Sparrows,” which recorded major foreign rights sales at the Frank-furt Book Fair.

Kennedy Marshall partners Kath-leen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, who have a first-look deal at the studio, will produce.

The novel has shades of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and centers on two warring 19th-century samurai lords and three American missionaries, who arrive in Japan just as the country is opening up to the West after centuries of isolation.

Matsuoka, who’s repped by UTA and the Candace Fuhrman Lit Agency, is also a screenwriter.

Bantam, which owns world rights, has been shopping several territories at Frankfurt. German rights went for $500,000 and the U.K. auction has reached mid-six figures. Bantam is likely to publish the book in 2002.

At U, the project will be overseen by senior veep of production Donna Langley and co-prexy of production Scott Stuber.

Kennedy Marshall is also repped by UTA. The shingle is producing the next M. Night Shyamalan pic, “Signs.”

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