U’s ‘Shadow’ fantasy

Fortitude's Delaportas, Butkiewicz will produce pic

In its first significant entry into the kid fantasy genre, Universal Pictures has made a seven-figure acquisition of G.P. Taylor bestseller “Shadowmancer” and will adapt it for the bigscreen.

Fortitude Films, which made its first foray into the film business in March by paying Taylor $1 million against $6.2 million for the book, will be the film’s producer.

Universal Pictures, led by exec veep Donna Langley, has covered Fortitude’s original acquisition tab, which included a promise of 15% of merchandising.

Fortitude’s Steve Delaportas and Lisa Marie Butkiewicz will produce.

U will move quickly to hire a scribe for the 17th-century-set tale about a group of kids who try to steal an ancient relic that will be used by an evil sorcerer to bring darkness to the world.

Fortitude makes the U-turn as it sews up a deal with the author for screen rights to Taylor’s first nine novels. Deal also would make him the host of a feature documentary about supernatural myths and a talkshow pilot called “Celebrity Dinner.”

Fortitude already agreed to pay $1.8 million against $6.5 million for “Wormwood,” Taylor’s second novel, which is a best-seller in the U.K. and will be published Stateside in the fall.

This is heady stuff for Taylor, a former punk rock promoter who became a cop and then an Episcopalian minister. He added author to that diverse resume when he wrote “Shadowmancer” as a way to kill time while rehabbing an injury.

Not long after Taylor sold his Harley-Davidson to self-publish, the novel became a London phenomenon and runaway bestseller. It was published in the U.S. by Putnam and briefly topped the New York Times bestseller lists for children’s chapter books.

While Taylor considers “Wormwood” the second title in a thematic trilogy, the characters and storyline are original, so it is not automatically part of the Universal deal. But that hardly means Taylor would leave the studio in the lurch for the inevitable sequel that would follow if “Shadowmancer” does boffo B.O.

“While we were with Graham, he came up with great ‘Shadowmancer’ sequel ideas, and he will write treatments for both of them,” Delaportas said. “We were approached by several studios, but made the deal with Universal because we were excited by Donna’s enthusiasm and the chance to be in business long-term with the studio.”

Fortitude’s deal with Taylor starts with “Tersias,” a recently completed novel about a young boy who, after losing his sight, is overcome by a dark creature that allows the youth to see the future and the desires of men.

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