NEW YORK — Fresh from helming “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!,” Ron Howard is negotiating to next direct “A Beautiful Mind,” an adaptation of Sylvia Nasar’s book about John Forbes Nash Jr., a Nobel Prize-winning genius who became a paranoid schizophrenic.
The film, which has the interest of several A-list stars, among them Tom Cruise, will begin shooting at the end of the year for Universal and Imagine, with Brian Grazer producing.
Another newspaper had incorrectly reported that Robert Redford was committed to direct the film, but sources say that, while Redford and Grazer had several talks on the project, no deal was ever concluded.
The project has been considered one of the most high profile since Imagine and Universal won the rights to the book for $1 million back in 1998. While the book includes accounts of Nash’s homosexuality, a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman focuses the story on Nash’s relationship with a wife who stuck by him during his ordeal, even committing him at one point.
The prospect of a handsome superstar triumphing over adversity had numerous directors highly interested, most recently Redford. Howard had always been interested in the story of Nash, whose work in the field of game theory established him as one of the country’s brightest minds. Because Howard was preoccupied directing Jim Carrey in “Grinch,” he apparently did not expect to direct the film, even though, like “Grinch,” it was developed by Imagine, the company in which he partners with Grazer.
Once Howard’s interest changed, Redford returned the project to him. Redford seems headed for a date starring alongside Brad Pitt in the Universal/Beacon Communications pic “Spy Game,” which will be directed by Mike Van Diem (“Character”).
The big question is whether Cruise, who starred for Howard in “Far and Away,” will play Nash. It’s believed he likes the script, but he will not make any next-project decisions until the opening of “Mission: Impossible 2,” a film he stars in and produced with partner Paula Wagner. Cruise could presumably accommodate the role before going to work for Steven Spielberg next year, possibly alongside Matt Damon, in “Minority Report,” the Fox/DreamWorks co-production which Spielberg delayed so that he could first direct “A.I.”