Hooper, Hampton join ‘East of Eden’

Director, writer tackle Steinbeck adaptation

Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer have set “John Adams” helmer Tom Hooper to direct and Christopher Hampton to write “East of Eden,” an adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel.

Grazer will produce with Grand Illusions Entertainment’s Jonathan Sanger and Ed Albert.

First published in 1952, “East of Eden” is Steinbeck’s retelling of the Cain and Abel story, set in California’s Salinas Valley. The multigenerational story focuses on the Trask brothers and a woman who comes between the siblings.

U and Imagine first optioned Steinbeck’s book in 2004, when it shot to the top of the bestseller lists right after Oprah Winfrey chose it as the first selection when she revived her book club. Ron Howard planned to direct it, and Paul Attanasio was hired to write it. Howard recently stepped out of directing the project.

With Hooper at the helm, the studio hopes to put “East of Eden” in production later this year.

Hooper said “East of Eden” was one of the formative literary influences of his teenage years.

“There is an opportunity to show the sex, violence and darkness of Steinbeck’s work, along with the optimism and celebration of love,” Hooper told Daily Variety.

Hooper has been nominated for a DGA Award for helming all seven installments of “John Adams.” He just completed “The Damned United,” a Peter Morgan-scripted film that Sony will release in the spring.

Hampton scripted “Atonement” and recently completed Stephen Frears-directed “Cheri.” He most recently scripted the Audrey Tautou starrer “Coco avant Chanel.”

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