De Laurentiis duo taps Tally for cautionary tale

Dino and Martha De Laurentiis will partner with a trio of German producers to turn the bestselling Frank Schatzing novel “The Swarm” into a big-budget ecological disaster film.

Ted Tally has been set to adapt the novel. The film is a co-production between the De Laurentiis duo and German producers Michael Souvignier, Ica Souvignier and Till Gronemeyer.

The Souvigniers bought the novel through their Zeitspring Entertainment, and are financing development of the screenplay. Dino and Martha De Laurentiis have a first-look deal at Universal, which will be first stop for the project.

Story is about an alien presence that exists quietly on the ocean floor and is compelled to destroy humanity after its eco-system is disrupted by pollution. Scientists race to stave off an apocalypse.

The book was a huge bestseller in Germany and other European countries. Published by Regan Books around the time topper Judith Regan was ousted, the book didn’t fare as well in the U.S.

While Hollywood activists and docus like Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” are trying to stir concerns about the environment, “The Swarm” becomes the latest in a growing number of projects based on the notion that there will be payback for mankind’s ecosystem abuses. M. Night Shyamalan is in pre-production on “The Happening,” with Mark Wahlberg starring as a man trying to keep his family alive after nature strikes back with deadly vengeance. James Cameron’s “Avatar” has similar themes.

Tally, who won an Oscar for scripting “The Silence of the Lambs,” most recently worked with the De Laurentiis duo on another Hannibal Lecter film, “Red Dragon.”

“We needed a certain screenwriter to preserve the book’s intelligence and message without stepping on the momentum of the book’s cinematically spectacular set-pieces, and we loved the last time we worked with Ted,” said Martha De Laurentiis. She said the film will be designed on the scale of natural disaster films like Roland Emmerich’s “The Day After Tomorrow.”

Zeitspring Entertainment has produced more than 28 German TV series, minis and movies, including an adaptation of several other Schatzing books including “Mordshunger.”

The De Laurentiises, who last produced “Hannibal Rising,” are reinventing “Barbarella” with “Casino Royale” scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

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