John Heffernan has signed on to adapt Clive Barker’s novel “Damnation Game” for Phoenix Pictures in a deal worth low- against mid-six figures.
The Faustian “Game” follows the exploits of an incarcerated gambler and master thief who gains early release at the behest of a wealthy industrialist. In exchange, the felon agrees to serve as bodyguard and security specialist to the capitalist — a task that proves perilous and morally ambiguous when he discovers that someone is coming to collect the soul of his employer to settle an old debt — and that that someone may be the Devil.
“This isn’t Devil-with-a-pitchfork kind of stuff,” said Heffernan. “It’s more visceral. It’s about the worst kind of hell: the evil that men do to one another.”
Heffernan said his adaptation of “Game” is psychologically troubling, for, as in Barker’s novel, the sense of which characters are good or bad rapidly blurs.
“After a time, you start to sympathize with the antagonist too,” said Heffernan. “After all, the Devil always makes good on his bargains. It’s man who is always trying to get out of the deal.”
Heffernan is also the scribe behind the action/suspense pitch “Snakes on a Plane,” which recently sold to MTV Films with Penney Finkelman-Cox and Sandra Rabins’ DreamWorks-based Patchwork producing.
“Snakes in a Plane,” Heffernan said, “combines people’s two greatest fears (snakes and flying) in a silver tube at 35,000 feet with nowhere to land.”
On the strength of that pitch, Heffernan also has a blind script commitment from MTV Films.
Barker will produce “Damnation Game” under his Seraphim Films banner, and his VP of production, Joe Daley, will exec produce. Heffernan was repped in the deal by ICM and Noah Rosen Management.
Brad Fischer, director of development for Phoenix, will oversee “Game’s” development and production with Anne Rodman, on behalf of Phoenix chief Mike Medavoy.