Film group to finance bigscreen adaptation

Essential Entertainment is financing a bigscreen version of Tom Wolfe’s “I Am Charlotte Simmons,” with Liz Friedlander (“Take the Lead”) attached to direct from John Watson’s script.

It’s the first time Wolfe has allowed one of his novels to be optioned for a feature since “The Bonfire of the Vanities” in 1987. The author also optioned “A Man in Full” to NBC.

Trilogy Entertainment Group will produce in association with Syntax; Essential exec produces. Watson, Pen Densham and Neil Kaplan will produce, with Chris Law and Essential’s Jere Hausfater exec producing.

“I Am Charlotte Simmons” centers on an Ivy League student who must undergo her first substantial disillusionment and betrayal after she lands in an unforgiving world.

Watson and Densham’s producing credits include “Backdraft,” “The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys,” “Larger Than Life” and the upcoming comedy “Just Buried,” which premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival. Watson’s screenplay credits include “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” which he co-wrote and produced with Densham; he recently adapted Richard Condon’s “An Infinity of Mirrors.”

Friedlander’s a veteran musicvideo director for bands including U2, R.E.M. and Celine Dion.

She’s repped by Gersh; CAA repped the book rights.

Essential Entertainment began operations last year as a specialist in talent packaging and late-stage development, production financing and sales, distribution and marketing for third-party and inhouse productions. Its Berlin 2008 lineup included Matador Pictures’ “Clive Barker’s Book of Blood,” now in production with John Harrison directing; spoof comedy “Stan Helsing,” to be produced by Scott Steindorff and Stone Village; and “My One and Only,” to be produced by Aaron Ryder.

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