Depp in negotiations to star

Universal has fast-tracked an adaptation of the Jean-Dominique Bauby autobiography “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” for Julian Schnabel to direct. Johnny Depp is in negotiations to star.

Bauby, the editor of Elle France, suffered a stroke that left his body completely paralyzed, except for his left eye, while his mind remained unaffected.

Kennedy-Marshall is producing, and Ron Harwood (“The Pianist”) wrote the script.

Despite his affliction, suffered in 1995 when he was 43, Bauby used his eye to blink out a memoir, letter by letter, then died two days after it was published. The book describes his pre-stroke life, what it was like to be a prisoner inside his useless body and imagined journeys to exotic places he’d never visited.

The memoir was a hot property when first auctioned by CAA in 1997, and DreamWorks and Sony partnered on the deal.

Quick attachments were made with scripter Ron Bass and “Shine” director Scott Hicks. Then the project languished and Bass never wrote a draft. The agency extricated it five years later and sold it to Universal, where Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall became involved.

Numerous directors sparked to Harwood’s script, but the talk soon centered on Schnabel and Depp.

A deal is being worked out with the director’s ICM reps, and Depp’s UTA reps will get the formal offer shortly.

Schnabel worked with Depp on his second directorial effort, “Before Night Falls.”

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