NEW YORK — Paramount and producer Scott Rudin have acquired screen rights to Don DeLillo’s new novel “Underworld” for high-six figures against a purchase price of $1 million if the film gets made.DeLillo, whose past novels include “Libra” and “White Noise,” was expected to land a screen sale since literary agent Lois Wallace got a whopping $1.7 million for the novel from Scribner’s. Though DeLillo’s a respected author, the sale of the film rights took time, because several potential buyers were overwhelmed by the scope of the material: 1,500 pages in manuscript, but about 800 when published.
The book is framed around baseball’s 1951 National League playoffs, when Bobby Thompson of the Giants shocked all of Brooklyn by hitting the home run that eliminated the beloved Dodgers from World Series contention and turned the world upside down. Thompson’s “shot heard round the world” is a metaphor for loss of innocence, and DeLillo then covers the way America was changed radically, from the Cold War and space race with the Soviet Union, up to the present. The book will be published Oct. 3, to commemorate the anniversary of Thompson’s game-winning homer.
While some studios shied away from the mammoth novel, Rudin considered it the best manuscript he’d seen in years and was dogged in pursuing it. He convinced the studio to pony up the big bucks for the novel.
The screen deal was made by the Gersh Agency’s Ron Bernstein.