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Van Sant in the ‘Kool-Aid’ mix

Director to adapt classic '60s novel

Nearly 40 years after its original publication, Tom Wolfe’s hallucinogenic tome “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” is headed for the bigscreen.

Gus Van Sant is attached to direct, and Lance Black (“Big Love”) will write the script. FilmColony’s Richard Gladstein is producing, and he’s in the process of setting the project with a financier.

The book told the story of a cross-country road trip that “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” author Ken Kesey orchestrated with a group called the Merry Pranksters. Driving in a psychedelically painted bus from California to visit the World’s Fair in New York in 1964, Kesey and his band used the trip as a way to turn on those they met to the mind-expanding wonders of LSD.

Kesey ingested the drug while he wrote “Cuckoo’s Nest,” crediting the hallucinogen for many of the ideas in the book.

Shortly after the Wolfe book was published in 1967, its film rights were purchased by entrepreneur Alfred Roven. Not a film producer, Roven had some meetings over the years with filmmakers but was very protective. When he died, Roven left the rights to his children, Daryn and Alison Roven. FilmColony’s Gladstein was introduced to them by attorney Peter Grossman, and for the first time, the rights were entrusted to a producer.

Van Sant, whose latest film, “Paranoid Park,” was honored at Cannes, signed on quickly. The filmmaker cast Kesey in his 1993 film “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” and dedicated his 2002 film “Gerry” to the author, who died in 2001. Van Sant enlisted Black, with whom he’s collaborating on a biopic of slain San Francisco pol Harvey Milk.

It’s likely Wolfe will not be a major character in the film, which will focus on Kesey and include events that occurred after the road trip.

Gladstein completed producing the Zach Helm-directed “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” which Fox Walden releases this fall, as well as “The Nanny Diaries” and John Madden-directed “Killshot,” both of which the Weinstein Co. will distribute through MGM this fall.

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