'Bourne' producer picks up Gruen’s novel

Film rights to “Water for Elephants,” Sara Gruen’s Depression-era circus novel that has climbed atop the paperback bestseller lists, have been optioned by Andrew R. Tennenbaum, a producer of “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

Leonard Hartman, who recently wrote a script based on R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” series for Universal, will do the adaptation. Tennenbaum, who used his own money to execute a modest upfront option against a seven-figure purchase price, will produce through his Flashpoint Entertainment banner.

While “Water for Elephants” sold respectably in hardcover, the novel has become a word of mouth success in paperback, climbing to the top of the New York Times bestseller list the past two weeks.

Story follows Jacob Jankowski, who is about to take his final exams in veterinary medicine at Cornell when his parents are killed in a car accident. He drops out and joins Benzini Brothers, a second-rate traveling circus trying to survive during the Depression.

The novel, Gruen’s third, was published by Algonquin, and Gruen recently signed a seven-figure deal to write “The Ape House” for Random House’s Spiegel & Grau imprint.

Tennenbaum is a manager and producer who teamed with Doug Liman to secure rights to Robert Ludlum thriller “The Bourne Identity.” They set the project at Universal, and Tennenbaum has been involved in a producing capacity in all three films. He has chased the Gruen novel rights since late last year and made his deal before the book established itself as a summer beach read. He attached his client Hartman to write and is looking to enlist a director before making a studio deal.

Hartman previously adapted the novel “Dragonology” and penned an untitled Civil War film for director Gary Ross.

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