Banks, Handelman on a roll

Universal Pictures has acquired “Too Far From Home,” a Chris Jones book about three astronauts who were stranded on the Intl. Space Station for 100 days in 2003.

Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce with Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman.

Deal marks the third project that has been set up by the husband-wife tandem of Banks and Handelman, who have just formed Brownstone Prods. as their base.

Since deciding to hatch projects, they set up “Surrogates,” an adaptation of a graphic novel Disney bought as a Jonathan Mostow directing vehicle. Banks and Handelman will produce with Mandeville partners David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman.

They followed with “What About Barb?,” a comedy project that was bought by Universal and is a potential star vehicle for Banks. The Brownstone duo is producing with Stuber/Parent’s Scott Stuber and Mary Parent.

“We’ve been very lucky to set three projects with partners we can learn from, and we started with the philosophy that success comes down to taste, access and clout,” Banks said. “Clout gets the movies made, and we looked for the best partnerships we could find.”

Next up for Banks and Handelman will be finding a producing partner and studio for another nonfiction book adaptation. They’ve optioned Ann Rowe Seaman’s “America’s Most Hated Woman: The Life and Gruesome Death of Madalyn Murray O’Hair.”

O’Hair was given that “most hated” moniker by Life magazine in 1963, when she was the catalyst for a Supreme Court decision that banned prayer from public schools. She was kidnapped, robbed, strangled, dismembered and buried in the Texas desert in 2000.

The duo won’t seek their own first-look deal with a studio for now. Banks has been acting steadily in features, and she and Handelman are happy to learn the production business with seasoned partners.

“We’re content to take baby steps,” Banks told Daily Variety.

Banks will next be seen in “Spider-Man 3″ and the upcoming “Fred Claus” and “Starship Dave.” Handelman came from Wall Street and News Corp.

Jones’ book, based on his Esquire article, was published by Random House in March.

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