Pollack shapes Chabon’s ‘Clay’

Author also ready to wag 'Tales' tomes

Author Michael Chabon is involved in two movie developments. Sydney Pollack is zeroing in on directing “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” for Paramount and producer Scott Rudin, after Chabon turned in a scripted adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

Paramount has not as yet seen the script or budget, which Rudin believes will earn a sure greenlight. Pollack, famously non-committal about future projects, has not directed a film since “Random Hearts” in 1999.

At the same time, Miramax has paid a six-figure sum in an unusual deal that gives the studio exclusive first-look rights at the contents of “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” a book of eight short stories that Chabon hasn’t started writing.

“Tales” has just been set up in a multimillion-dollar two-book deal at the Harper Collins-owned imprint Fourth Estate, which published Chabon’s last few books in England. Fourth Estate emerged the victor in a heated auction among five houses for U.S. and Canadian rights to the story collection and his next novel, “Hatzeplatz.” The auction came about after Chabon turned down an early lower offer from Random House, which published “Kavalier & Clay” and had an exclusive first window.

Rudin, who produced the Curtis Hanson-directed adaptation of Chabon’s novel “Wonder Boys,” recently snapped up screen rights to “Hatzeplatz” based on a one-and-a-half page proposal, roughly what Rudin saw before buying “Kavalier & Clay.”

On the “Kavalier & Clay” film front, no deal has been made, but sources said Pollack has already begun working on a rewrite with Chabon, and that an early 2003 production start is being eyed. Rudin produced the Pollack-directed films “The Firm” and “Sabrina,” and Pollack co-stars with Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson in the upcoming Rudin-produced Paramount drama “Changing Lanes.”

Rudin and Paramount seem to be flourishing in Pulitzer prose, having just completed production on an adaptation of the prize-winning Michael Cunningham novel “The Hours,” which Stephen Daldry directed and David Hare wrote. The pic, which stars Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore, will be released domestically this Christmas by Paramount, with Miramax handling foreign territories. Par and Rudin also have Daldry and Hare working on an adaptation of Jonathan Franzen’s National Book Award-winning “The Corrections.”

Chabon’s history of having his prose bought for the screen before he has actually written it moved Miramax to pony up six figures to get first crack at the yet-to-be-written short stories, in a deal brokered by lit agent Mary Evans, CAA and David Colden.

Miramax is already developing a film from Chabon’s upcoming children’s novel “Summerland,” which will be published this fall by Talk Miramax Books, and the studio gets first shot at the eight stories whose spirit and subject matter Chabon discussed in his brief missive. In that document, Chabon declared that his objective is to revitalize his own writing by channeling the spirit of his formative literary influences, short story writers like H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

He promised thoroughly modern works of literature that are not homages, and there seems to be movie potential given that he will cover so many genres. Chabon will write a horror story, a Sherlock Holmes adventure, a ghost story, an adventure story, a science fiction story, a story of suspense, a costume or period or historical story and a sea story.

If Miramax likes the movie potential for any of them, there is a template for a separate purchase deal for each. If the studio passes on one, Chabon can set it up elsewhere.

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