The struggle to give screen treatment to Alice Sebold’s bestselling novel “The Lovely Bones” has taken an intriguing turn.
Lynne Ramsay is out as director, and talks are under way with Peter Jackson and partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens to make “The Lovely Bones” their follow-up to “King Kong.”
That news has officially turned a grim story into a hot property at studios.
“Lovely Bones” does not seem like the sort of book that’s destined for a film adaptation. It’s a heartbreaking tale narrated by a 14-year old girl — after she has been raped and murdered. From heaven, she observes her shattered family’s attempt to heal, as a detective tries to solve the case and as her killer moves along his demented path.
The film rights are controlled by British-based FilmFour and producer Aimee Peyronnet, who made an option deal in 2000 based on the book’s first 100 pages. The pages were sent overseas only after every studio in Hollywood read them and passed.
Sebold’s book then became a critically acclaimed bestseller, and despite Channel 4 having essentially halted FilmFour’s movie business, the broadcaster pressed forward with “The Lovely Bones.”
Though Ramsay and her co-writer Liana Dognini were hired to adapt the tale, the project has languished and was largely forgotten until the past week or so.
Sudden interest in the book by Jackson and his “Rings” partners Walsh and Boyens is not altogether shocking. They planned to follow the arduous “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy by making an f/x-free film similar in tone to “Heavenly Creatures.” They eyed modest projects like “As Nature Made Him,” the true story of a New Zealand doctor who believed gender could be assigned and tested the theory by making a girl out of a newborn boy.
They instead took a precedent-setting $20 million against 20% deal to remake “King Kong.”
Talks are early and no deal has been made yet. But the prospect of Jackson’s participation should have FilmFour’s phones ringing. Peyronnet signed a first-look deal last summer at DreamWorks, and speculation was that the studio hoped to corral the book, which Steven Spielberg likes a lot.
But the producing deal did not include “The Lovely Bones,” and the book is not currently controlled by any studio, sources said. Calls to FilmFour weren’t returned, and Jackson’s manager, Ken Kamins, declined comment.