'Mentalist' star, Johnson will produce adaptation

“The Mentalist” star Simon Baker and producer Mark Johnson have teamed to acquire feature rights to the Tim Winton novel “Breath.”

Baker and Johnson will produce together, and Baker plans to play one of the lead roles. They plan to enlist a director before setting up funding for the pic.

Published in 2008, the novel is set in a small town in Western Australia where two 16-year-old boys take up surfing under the tutelage of an enigmatic surfer named Sando (Baker) and his mysterious wife. Spurred on by their mentor, the boys test the limits of courage and recklessness as they try to escape their mundane lives.

Winton, one of Australia’s top authors, won the Miles Franklin Award for the book, marking the fourth time he’s won the honor. His 2001 novel “Dirt Music” is being turned into a film by Phillip Noyce, and “Cloudstreet” is being turned into a miniseries by Screentime.

Johnson and Baker first teamed on CBS legal drama “The Guardian.” Baker, who has been surfing the waters off Australia since childhood, was last seen on the bigscreen in “The Devil Wears Prada” and next stars in “The Killer Inside Me,” the Michael Winterbottom-directed adaptation of the Jim Thompson novel.

“Winton’s book beautifully captures the excitement and brutality of growing up in a way I’ve only experienced but have never been able to articulate,” Baker said.

Johnson is no stranger to Australia, as he has been camped there while producing “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” the third installment in “The Chronicles of Narnia” series for Fox 2000 and Walden Media. He also wrapped the remake of “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” in Melbourne for Miramax, with Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes starring. Johnson produced the latter pic with Guillermo del Toro.

“While ‘Breath’ is at its heart a coming-of-age story, I see it primarily as a celebration of teenage anarchy and a youthful rejection of anything that smacks of the ordinary,” Johnson said.

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