Studio acquires rights to embattled author's book

DreamWorks is firming up a deal to preemptively acquire screen rights to “I Am Number Four,” the first of a six-book science fiction deal that has “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” director Michael Bay aboard to produce and possibly direct.

DreamWorks is working on a high six-figure deal, sources said.

The real surprise in the deal, though, is the identity of one of the two authors. Though WME began shopping the book Thursday under a pseudonym, sources said one of the writers is James Frey, best known for writing “A Million Little Pieces.” Neither the agency nor the studio would confirm.

The deal puts Bay right back in business with DreamWorks, Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider. It is expected that Spielberg will be active in a behind-the-scenes capacity, similar to the godfather role he has played in the “Transformers” franchise. The sale comes as “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” takes a run at the record books this weekend, after setting records on its first two days in theaters.

The franchise is about a group of nine earthbound alien teens who escaped their planet just before it was destroyed by a hostile species. While the high school-aged kids assimilate, the title character discovers that he is being hunted by the enemy that blew up his planet.

Both the publishing rights and the screen rights were shopped simultaneously, with Bay taking it into DreamWorks/Disney, Columbia and Universal; J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot for Paramount; Bryan Singer for Fox, and BenderSpink for New Line and CBS.

Frey recently became a client of WME when his agent, Eric Simonoff, joined WMA from Janklow-Nesbit.

Frey established himself as a literary sensation for his addiction memoir “A Million Little Pieces,” only to have it turn sour when it was revealed he embellished incidents in the book. Warner Bros. and Brad Pitt’s Plan B had made a pricey deal to turn the book into a film, but that stalled after a scandal that reached its peak with a mea culpa appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s daytime show, and a lawsuit against publisher Random House by readers who felt duped.

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