Minghella to adapt, helm psychological thriller

NEW YORK — Anthony Minghella has committed to write and direct a feature for Miramax Films based on British author Liz Jensen’s forthcoming novel “The Ninth Life of Louis Drax,” marking the “Cold Mountain” helmer’s fourth consecutive project for the studio.

Due for publication through Bloomsbury in June in the U.K. and in January in the U.S., the novel is a surreal psychological thriller about an accident-prone 9-year-old problem child lying in a deep coma and the doctor who cares for him.

Project is being assembled under Miramax’s three-year, first-look production deal with Minghella and Sydney Pollack’s Mirage Enterprises, signed in December to formalize the two companies’ fruitful association.

Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and Minghella were in Germany Thursday for the gala screening of “Cold Mountain,” which opened the Berlin Film Festival.

Fruitful history

In addition to “Cold Mountain,” Miramax produced and distributed Minghella’s previous two films as writer-director, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “The English Patient,” which won the company its first best picture Oscar in 1997.

The Jensen novel was brought to the attention of Miramax by European literary acquisitions exec Lola Bubbosh and by Mirage producer Bruna Papandrea. U.K.-based exec VP of European production and development Colin Vaines will oversee development of the screenplay for Miramax.

“Sydney and I were delighted that our partners at Miramax moved so quickly and effectively to acquire the rights to this tremendous material for us,” Minghella said.

“Liz Jensen has crafted a taut psychological thriller that provides the ideal framework for a riveting motion picture,” said Weinstein. “Miramax has a longstanding relationship with Anthony and Mirage, and ‘The Ninth Life of Louis Drax’ offers the perfect source material for our continued collaboration.”

Sydney Pollack said, “This is a book that we are so excited about here at Mirage. We are thrilled to be working with Miramax on this project which is clearly very special and unique.”

Slate’s no mirage

Other projects announced as part of the Miramax-Mirage pact include the comedy “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” adapted by Kevin Wade from Allison Pearson’s bestselling novel about a woman performing a balancing act between her roles as a mother and an investment banker.

Also in the pipeline is a Hossein Amini adaptation of “The Amulet of Samarkand,” the first novel in author Jonathan Stroud’s “Bartimaeus Trilogy,” about a young trainee magician and his world-weary genie in London, and a film of Kate Saunders’ novel “The Marrying Game,” about a British family fallen on hard times and attempting to marry money, with Lucinda Cox scripting.

All three of those projects will be produced through Mirage, though Minghella has not announced his intention to direct any of them. While “The Ninth Life” could conceivably become his next film as director, Minghella has not yet committed to a schedule.

Minghella talks on ‘Mila’

While no deal is yet in place, Weinstein also has been talking recently about involving Minghella and Martin Scorsese as producers on the Miramax chief’s long-nurtured directing project “Mila 18,” a Holocaust drama about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising adapted by Amini from the Leon Uris novel. Weinstein has said he hopes to get the film before cameras later this year.

Exec VP of business affairs Steve Hutensky negotiated the agreement on behalf of Miramax with film agent Lesley Shaw at Gillon Aitken Associates in the U.K. and lit agent Claire Alexander representing the author.

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