Green takes novel route

South Carolina-set 'Bees,' 'Goat' on helmer's radar

CANNES — While plans for him to tackle the long-stalled film of cult novel “A Confederacy of Dunces” appear to have receded, David Gordon Green has been attached to write and direct feature adaptations of two other high-profile books: Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Secret Life of Bees,” for Focus Features, and Brad Land’s “Goat,” for Killer Films.

South Carolina-set tomes are a neat fit with the Southern background of Green, who was born in Little Rock, Ark., and attended the North Carolina School of the Arts.

“These films couldn’t be better suited for me, but also couldn’t be more different from each other,” Green told Daily Variety. “They’re both in my backyard, and they both seem like projects with commercial substance to which I could bring distinctive or progressive elements.”

Lauren Shuler Donner will produce “Bees,” a story of maternal loss, betrayal, guilt and forgiveness about a young white girl who flees her hometown with her black surrogate mother. She is taken in by an eccentric trio of beekeeping sisters who introduce the runaway to their secret world.

No start date has been set.

Shuler Donner originally set up the film at Fox Searchlight with Joe Pichirallo when the latter was a production executive there. When a deal could not be reached for book rights at Searchlight, Shuler Donner took the project to Focus, following Pichirallo’s move to the Universal specialty division, where he is exec VP of development and production.

Monk Kidd’s book has been on U.S. bestseller lists for 65 weeks. Green first read the novel in manuscript form prior to publication and has been attached throughout the film’s gestation.

Killer Films principal Christine Vachon and development exec Jocelyn Hayes will oversee “Goat” for the New York-based shingle, which will shop the feature for financing and distribution at Cannes.

Published earlier this year to strong reviews after being excerpted in GQ, Land’s memoir deals with themes of masculinity, violence and brotherhood, recounting the author’s experience as a recovering assault victim drawn into the barbaric humiliation rituals of fraternity hazing during his freshman year at Clemson U.

“My first instinct when I read ‘Goat’ was that this is a portrait of male relationships like ‘Deliverance’ was in its time, as opposed to the typical Hollywood view of fraternity life,” Green said.

“I think there’s a potential we could put this together to shoot in late fall,” said Vachon, who read the book on a New York-to-Los Angeles flight and set the wheels in motion to acquire rights immediately after landing.

Green gave no indication which project will move ahead first.

The helmer first drew attention at Sundance with his dramas “George Washington” and “All the Real Girls,” both set in North Carolina.

His third feature, “Undertow,” was shot in Savannah, Ga., and is due for release through United Artists in the fall, possibly after a Toronto fest bow. Drama stars Dermot Mulroney, Josh Lucas, Jamie Bell and newcomer Devon Alan.

The director has been attached for the past two years to “Confederacy,” the film adaptation of John Kennedy Toole’s New Orleans-set comic novel, adapted by Scott Kramer and Steven Soderbergh. That project has languished in various stages of development for 20 years.

After falling apart last year at Miramax, the project was shopped to Warner Independent Pictures and to New Line but has failed to find a new home. Despite advanced discussions with Philip Seymour Hoffman and, subsequently, Will Ferrell to star, the feature now appears to be back in limbo.

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