Minghella, Nichols will digest ‘Reader’

Pic may move before 'Mountain'

CANNES — A year after acquiring bestseller “The Reader,” Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein has set it up with a classy package: Anthony Minghella is to write and direct the screen adaptation, with Mike Nichols producing.

Minghella’s deal has not been negotiated yet, according to sources, but he has been informally developing the project, based on Bernhard Schlink’s novel, for some time and is keen to do it.

No start date is set, and it is unclear whether Minghella would make it before the Civil War romance “Cold Mountain,” to which he is attached to direct for United Artists.

Nasty surprise

“Reader” concerns a 15-year-old boy who has an affair with an older woman in post-war Germany. She disappears and the teenager expects never to see her again. When he does, she is a defendant in a Nazi war crimes trial.

Minghella’s latest, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” starring Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, is due for a domestic release by Miramax in December. His credits include “The English Patient,” “Truly, Madly Deeply” and “Mr. Wonderful.”

Nichols is presently working on “All the Pretty Horses,” a Miramax/Sony Pictures co-production which also stars Damon.

Billy Bob Thornton is directing the adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel for Miramax.

William Morris Agency reps Minghella. Miramax would not comment.