Baumbach to adapt Messud novel for Universal

Ron Howard has said yes to another directing assignment for Universal.

Imagine Entertainment’s co-topper will helm U’s adaptation of “The Emperor’s Children,” Claire Messud’s 2006 novel about Gotham’s upper crust, based on a script by Noah Baumbach.

Imagine acquired the tome, about Ivy League grads approaching their 30s with trepidation in 2001, early this year as a possible directing vehicle for Howard, with partner Brian Grazer aboard to produce (Daily Variety, Jan. 26). Baumbach, a writer who has shown an affinity for writing about the East Coast elite, has been circling the project since at least mid-March.

Howard’s busy directing slate includes “Frost/Nixon,” the screen adaptation of the legiter skedded to begin production Aug. 24, and “Angels & Demons,” the prequel to “The Da Vinci Code” for Columbia. Imagine has also set up remakes of the French thriller “Cache” and ’70s sci-fi film “Colossus: The Forbin Project” at U as possible directing projects for Howard.

Imagine reupped with U last week in a deal that keeps the shingle in the studio fold through the end of 2013. The shingle has many productions in the works including the Ridley Scott-helmed “American Gangster,” Michael Dowse’s “Kids in America” and “The Changeling,” a co-production of Imagine and Malpaso directed by Clint Eastwood.

Baumbach has delivered his adaptation of “Prep” to Lorne Michaels and John Goldwyn for Paramount’s adaptation of that novel. Previously, he penned and directed “The Squid and the Whale” and did double duty on Paramount Vantage’s upcoming “Margot at the Wedding.”

UTA’s reps Baumbach. Attorney Fred Toczek negotiated the deal.

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