Children's book series set for bigscreen

HandMade Films has hired Charles Shyer to direct “Eloise in Paris,” the first of several planned bigscreen adaptations of the Kay Thompson-Hilary Knight children’s book series about the precocious kid who lives in Gotham’s Plaza Hotel.

Shyer will write the script with Larry Spencer and Hallie Meyers-Shyer. The latter is Shyer’s 19-year old daughter, whose mother is the writer-director Nancy Meyers. A February production start is planned, and the film will shoot in London, Paris and New York.

Started by the late Beatles guitarist George Harrison in the 1980s, HandMade was relaunched by Patrick Meehan, with the “Eloise” book series one of its plum properties. HandMade had developed “Eloise in Paris” with “Calendar Girls” director Nigel Cole last year, but Meehan said it didn’t work out. Looking for a Hollywood sensibility, he approached Shyer, who’ll start from scratch with his daughter and Spencer, his co-writer on the Fox Searchlight film “Sweet Little Fifteen.”

“The books consisted of a lot of vignettes, and the challenge is to create a cohesive story,” Shyer said. “There is sweetness and comedy, but there is also an underpinning of pathos and humanity.”

Meehan said the project’s being mounted through a mixture of presales and equity, much the way HandMade mobilized the Paul W.S. Anderson-directed remake of “The Long Good Friday.” “Eloise” has been turned into two ABC telepics and an animated series; a Broadway show is also in the works.

Meehan said that the feature will be contemporized and that HandMade has decided that, should there be a sequel to the Shyer-directed film, it will be adapted from the book “Eloise Goes to Hollywood.”

“Eloise in Paris” will be produced by Meehan, Thomas D. Adelman and Ron Rotholz. Shyer will exec produce.

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