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Walden will go on ‘Manhunt’

Co. to dig 'Holes' for Voight

Walden Media has optioned “Manhunt: the Twelve Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killers,” historian James L. Swanson’s account of the search for the assassins of Abraham Lincoln.

Acquisition comes as Walden moves forward with “Holes,” an adaptation of the children’s novel by Louis Sachar, set to begin shooting next month. Walden has cast Oscar nominee Jon Voight (“Ali”) to co-star in “Holes” with Sigourney Weaver.

“Manhunt,” sold on the basis of a book proposal, is a thriller that follows the story of John Wilkes Booth, his fellow conspirators and the officials who stalked them. Deal is worth mid-six figures, with a higher payday if the pic goes into production.

Walden VP of production Perry Moore said the book was appealing as both a commercial and an educational property. “It’s exciting and high octane,” Moore said.

Walden, an Anschutz subsid, launched last year with the mandate to marry education and entertainment.

Swanson, repped by ICM, is a Lincoln expert and Civil War memorabilia collector who wrote “Lincoln’s Assassins: Their Trial and Execution” last year. William Morrow plans to publish “Manhunt” in 2004.

“Holes,” which begins lensing in late April in California, is Walden’s first feature to go before cameras. “Collateral Damage” helmer Andrew Davis is directing the pic from a screenplay by Sachar. Phoenix Pictures’ Mike Medavoy and Chicago Pacific Entertainment’s Teresa Tucker-Davies, Lowell Blank and Davis will produce.

Walden Media senior veep of production Alex Schwartz, along with Matt Bierman and Anne Rodman of Phoenix Pictures, will oversee the film.

“Holes” centers on a young boy falsely arrested for stealing a pair of sneakers and sent to a juvenile detention facility in the Texas desert. Forced to dig holes “to build character” by the menacing warden (Weaver) and her right-hand man Mr. Sir (Voight), whose wrath all the boys fear, Stanley and his fellow “campers” soon discover the truth: They are really being used to unearth a secret buried treasure.

“Holes” won the 1999 Newbery Medal for best children’s and young adult fiction, the Boston Globe Horn Book Award and the 1998 National Book Award for young people’s literature.

Voight is repped by Steven Paul of Crystal Sky and Dorothy Koster of Artists Only Management.

Run by co-founder and CEO Cary Granat, Walden’s film slate includes James Cameron’s “Ghosts of the Abyss,” his first directing, producing and writing project since “Titanic.” Company is also developing a film based on C.S. Lewis’ series of books “The Chronicles of Narnia,” beginning with “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

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