Crusader digs Pitt book rights

Cussler's series spans 13 novels, 40 languages

CANNES — Crusader Entertainment has acquired feature film rights to the best-selling action-adventure books of Clive Cussler, featuring the character Dirk Pitt. First film of the franchise will be based on Cussler’s “Sahara” novel.

Other books in the series include “Atlantis Found,” “Night Probe,” “Inca Gold” and “Flood Tide.”

Since the first Dirk Pitt novel, “Iceberg,” was published in 1973, 13 consecutive Pitt books have been on the New York Times best-seller list. Pitt’s adventures have been published in more than 40 languages in over 100 countries, and Cussler’s publisher, G.P. Putnam & Sons, estimates his global readership at 120 million fans.

The latest Dirk Pitt adventure, “Valhalla Rising,” is due to be published this fall.

Crusader entered into a three-year, first-look deal with Paramount Pictures in January, which will distribute the company’s motion pictures in the U.S.

“I have always been a huge fan of Clive Cussler’s stories and I am excited to be working with Crusader in developing these books into films,” said Sherry Lansing, chairman of the Paramount Pictures motion picture group.

“We have forged a unique relationship with Clive, and are committed to maintaining the strength and integrity of his original vision and the amazing adventures of the characters he’s created,” said Crusader head Howard Baldwin. “We intend to make these movies true to his books — action-adventures that will appeal to everyone in the family.”

In addition to its deal with Paramount, Crusader has created a Classics division, which is shooting two feature films in Chicago — “Joshua,” based on the first novel of Joseph Girzone’s successful series of books; and “Children on Their Birthdays,” based on the short story by Truman Capote. A third film is in pre-production: “A Sound of Thunder,” based on Ray Bradbury’s short story, produced with Franchise Pictures, to be released in North America by Warner Bros., starring Pierce Brosnan with Renny Harlin directing.

Crusader also recently acquired the life rights to the story of music legend Ray Charles for its upcoming feature “Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story.”