In his first deal since winning the Oscar for adapting “The Pianist,” Ronald Harwood has been set by DreamWorks to adapt the Thomas Hauser novel “Mark Twain Remembers.” James Franco is attached to play the young author Samuel Clemens.

The book tells the tale of a 20-year-old Clemens as he sets off from Missouri and meets up with a slave boxer and his master/promoter. The experience awakens the abolitionist spirit in the young author that would inform books like “Huck Finn.”

Clemens becomes determined to free the slave, but when his scheme is successful, the slave’s ex-master attempts to win him back by rigging a bare-knuckle brawl against a larger and more experienced opponent. Hauser is a renowned boxing author.

The pic was brought to DreamWorks by Bonnie Curtis, Steven Spielberg’s longtime assistant-turned-producer, who was recently staked to a first-look deal at the studio. Curtis is producing with Jonathan Schwartz of Crispy Films and Crystal Spring partners Jim Lampley and Stephen Ricci.

Popular on Variety

Harwood’s ICM reps put him in the deal after he staged a surprise Oscar win in a strong Adapted Screenplay category, for adapting the autobiography of the Polish composer Wladyslaw Szpilman, which also saw Oscar victories for director Roman Polanski and star Adrien Brody.