You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Spanish scribe takes ‘Communion’

Franchise-hungry producers hunting for material outside the usual Hollywood channels are turning to foreign fiction.

Among the latest international writers to surface on Hollywood’s development track is Arturo Perez-Reverte, a former Spanish TV journalist whose literary thrillers, including “The Club Dumas” — the basis for Roman Polanski’s “The Ninth Gate” — have made him Spain’s most famous living novelist.

Now thanks to a burgeoning interest in large-scale, Hollywood-style movies among foreign producers, a cluster of high-profile talent is working together to shepherd two international co-productions of Perez-Reverte’s novels to the screen.

Palomar Pictures principal Joni Sighvatsson (“K-19”) and producer Steven Hirsch, through his shingle, SeeMore Films, are working with Spanish broadcaster Telecinco’s production arm Estudios Picasso to produce an English-language version of Perez-Reverte’s contemporary Vatican thriller, “Seville Communion.” Telecinco is talking to Penelope Cruz about toplining the pic, which is currently out to directors.

“Communion” follows a Vatican secret agent investigating a murder in Seville who unearths a wide-ranging conspiracy involving bankers, underworld thugs and forces inside the Church. It will be shot in Seville and Rome. Palomar development head Ragna Nervik brought the project into the shingle.

Additionally, producer Mark Gordon (“Saving Private Ryan”) is collaborating with Hirsch and Telecinco on a production of “Captain Alatrice,” based on a series of Perez-Reverte novels set during the Inquisition.

“Alatrice” is the story of an ex-soldier embroiled in a plot involving international politics, religious radicals and the invention of modern warfare.

Spanish producer Antonio Cardenal will exec produce both Perez-Reverte projects through his shingle Origen Prods.

Screenwriters Jason Kassin and Will Baum have adapted both projects.

RARELY DO FOREIGN LANGUAGE TITLES clear the usual studio roadblocks and become full-scale Hollywood productions.

Such books need to be translated both linguistically and culturally, a difficult feat in a business where hot projects are always top priority. Witness “If Only It Were True” and “Education of a Fairy,” French novels acquired by DreamWorks and Miramax in recent years, both of which have all but vanished into the developmental ether.

There are exceptions. Take Pierre Boulle. The Gallic author of the novels that became “Planet of the Apes” and “The Bridge On the River Kwai,” is enduring proof that in adapting books for the bigscreen, it’s the power of the story that matters, not the country of origin.

A handful of other foreign titles — “The Name of the Rose,” “The Lover,” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” — have made the crossing. Though Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut,” based on an Arthur Schnitzler novel, was developed in the auteur’s usual cloistered fashion, it, too, may offer a ray of hope to producers grappling with foreign lit.

But Hirsch, who ran New Regency for Arnon Milchan in the late 1980s, has labored for more than a year to develop the Perez-Reverte novels.

Hirsch has a longstanding relationship with Telecinco, but he had to convince Telecinco exec Ghislain Barrois that the pics could be produced on a Hollywood studio scale, not as small foreign pics with unknown talent — even though Telecinco didn’t have the budget to commission a draft from A-list writers.

Perez-Reverte “is an icon in Spain,” Barrois said. “We had to be very creative in putting the pieces of the puzzle together. When we decided to move forward, finding a writer was a key element.”

Hirsch took a chance on Kassin and Baum, writers then known only for a previous spec sale to DreamWorks, “Curtis and Chloe’s Big Blind Date.”

Hirsch asked them to adapt the material and infuse it with a more contempo sensibility. His gamble seems to have paid off. Kassin and Baum, repped by BKWU and the Bohrman Agency, respectively, have since embarked on numerous other projects — including a “North by Northwest” sendup called “South x South Central” (soon to be shopped to studios) — and the drafts proved solid enough for Hirsch to secure Hollywood firepower in the form of Sighvatsson and Gordon.

“Seville Communion” is expected to move forward first. The producers plan to find studio distribution Stateside, financing production, at least in part, through foreign pre-sales (Telecinco has financed development thus far).

But the Spanish and U.S. producers are hoping that all of Perez-Reverte’s novels gain exposure in the process. A number have been translated into English and published in the U.S., including “The Fencing Master,” whose film rights were optioned to Film Four and may soon be up for grabs.

The campaign to bring Perez-Reverte to the screen has succeeded thus far, Hirsch said, by demonstrating that his books work as “high-powered action thrillers,” regardless of their cultural contexts. “They’re just good stories,” he said.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Steven Spielberg Branko Lustig

    'He Left Me Speechless': Steven Spielberg Remembers Branko Lustig

    Steven Spielberg has offered a touching remembrance of Branko Lustig, the Holocaust survivor who produced “Schindler’s List” with Spielberg and Gerald Molen and died Thursday in Croatia. “I was heartbroken to hear of Branko’s passing and my thoughts are with his family and friends,” Spielberg said. “When we first met to discuss ‘Schindler’s List,’ he [...]

  • Dylan Brosnan and Paris BrosnanGolden Globe

    Pierce Brosnan’s Sons Paris and Dylan Brosnan Named 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors

    Pierce Brosnan’s two youngest sons, Paris and Dylan Brosnan, have been named as the 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced on Thursday evening. Paris and Dylan are also the sons of journalist and author Keely Shaye Smith. The ambassador(s), a title that typically goes to the son or daughter of a [...]

  • Joaquin Phoenix'Joker' film premiere, Arrivals, 57th

    Film News Roundup: Joaquin Phoenix Honored by Palm Springs Film Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, Joaquin Phoenix is honored for “Joker”; Legion M backs Joe Manganiello’s “Archenemy”; sales have launched on “Lev Yashin: The Dream Goalkeeper”; Warner Bros. shuffles execs and Universal launches a first-of-its-kind animation writing program. HONOR Joaquin Phoenix has been selected as the recipient of the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s chairman’s [...]

  • Danny Huston

    Danny Huston Discusses the Significance of 'Last Photograph'

    In the decades since Danny Huston made his feature directing debut with “Mr. North,” his 1988 film adaptation of the Thornton Wilder novel “Theophilus North,” he has kept busy in front of the cameras as one of film and television’s most versatile and sophisticated character players. In just the past year, small-screen viewers have been [...]

  • Rocketman

    'Rocketman': Chris Dickens Discusses the Inside Story of Editing 'I'm Still Standing'

    Endings are so important and how the viewer leaves the cinema is crucial. For editor Chris Dickens, finding the perfect ending for “Rocketman” was paramount, but it was also a challenge. Elton John’s hit “I’m Still Standing” was going to end the film with the original idea of going to Cannes to recreate the video [...]

  • A general view of the skyline

    United Media Asia Strikes Deal With Indonesian Giant Kompas Gramedia

    Newly-formed content finance, production and distribution company United Media Asia has struck a first look deal, brokered by Hollywood talent agency CAA, with Indonesian media giant Kompas Gramedia. United has also unveiled its first two feature films. The partnership provides UMA with access to Kompas Gramedia’s media network and its 100,000 pieces of intellectual property, [...]

  • Taron Egerton Fashion

    Taron Egerton's Stylist Used Elton John as Inspiration on Press Tour

    Showstopping looks: For Taron Egerton’s “Rocketman” tour, stylist Gareth Scourfield nodded to Elton John’s iconic wardrobe with bold colors, patterns and silhouettes: “We got a bit more eccentric.” May 16 “Elton is the real original showman,” says Scourfield, who met Egerton through another client, Egerton’s “Rocketman” co-star Richard Madden. “Part of Taron as a man [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content