Universal, Ross bet ‘Zero’

Adaptation based on Meltzer political thriller

A correction was made to this article on Dec. 2, 2003.

Continuing their collaboration started on “Seabiscuit,” Universal’s Kennedy/Marshall Co. and Gary Ross’ Larger Than Life Prods. will develop a film based on Brad Meltzer’s upcoming novel “The Zero Game.”

Ross may come aboard to direct.

Political thriller “Zero Game” follows two bored aides in the U.S. Senate who begin betting on how they can alter the legislative process. “One of the bets goes terribly wrong and reveals a far more sinister plot going on behind the scenes,” Meltzer said.

Warner Books will publish the novel in January. Meltzer has completed a first draft of the book, but the final text isn’t due for a month or two.

To sell the rights to U, Meltzer said he made the pitch in person to Ross and Kennedy/Marshall’s Kathleen Kennedy late last month.

Meltzer, who carved a niche as a Gen X version of John Grisham, has hit the New York Times bestseller list with “The Tenth Justice” and “Dead Even,” both published by now-defunct imprint Rob Weisbach Books.

Meltzer then moved to Warner with a two-book deal for “The First Counsel” and, most recently, “The Millionaires.” He signed a second two-book pact of which “Zero Game” will be the first.

The only other film rights sold by Meltzer are to Fox 2000 for “The Tenth Justice.” Writer-director Justin Lin is attached and has recently completed a script, Meltzer said. Fabian Marquez and Ernesto Foronda are Lin’s writing partners on the project.

Meltzer is also developing a TV pilot at Warner Bros. for “Jack,” about a 16-year-old boy who, unbeknownst to him, is destined to be president.

Overseeing for Universal are production prexy Mary Parent and senior VP Donna Langley. Meltzer is repped by Endeavor.

(Jonathan Bing contributed to this report.)

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