Shadyac to develop 'Planetwalker'

Universal Pictures and Tom Shadyac will bring to the bigscreen the true story of John Francis, who walked from one end of the country to the other and didn’t speak a word for nearly two decades.

Shadyac will develop the film to direct.

Studio has acquired Francis’ memoir “Planetwalker” and set Justin Zackham to write the script. Zackham just scripted “The Bucket List” for Warner Bros.

U-based Shady Acres will shepherd the film, with Shadyac and Michael Bostick producing and Amanda Morgan Palmer as associate producer.

After witnessing a collision of two oil tankers that wiped out the ecosystem in San Francisco Bay in 1971, Francis boycotted motor vehicles and took off on foot for a cross-country pilgrimage to raise environmental awareness, taking a vow of silence that lasted 18 years. He finally broke silence when he defended his Ph.D. thesis, which he wrote on the subject of oil spills.

Francis’ life rights are part of the deal, and Zackham will spend time with him right after Francis takes a 1,000-mile canoe trip to unite Eskimo tribes in Alaska. Francis was named a goodwill ambassador by the United Nations Environment Program, and the U.S. government recruited him to write regulations to deal with oil spillage accidents after the Exxon Valdez debacle.

U opens the Shadyac-directed Steve Carrell starrer “Evan Almighty” on June 22.

Zackham is repped by WMA, Shadyac by CAA.

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