Owen stacks her bookshelves

Producer Alison Owen of Ruby Films has added another high-profile novel, Zadie Smith‘s “On Beauty,” to her growing library of contemporary literature.

FilmFour has bought Smith’s Booker Prize-shortlisted story for Owen to develop with Scott Rudin. It’s a family drama, loosely inspired by E.M. Forster’s “Howard’s End,” about an English academic grappling with middle age at a campus on America’s East Coast.

Owen and Rudin are already working together on an adaptation of Philippa Gregory‘s historical novel “The Other Boleyn Girl” for BBC Films, which is being set up at Sony and Focus Intl.

Owen, whose recent credits include John Madden‘s “Proof” and Alek Keshishian‘s upcoming “Love and Other Disasters,” has several other adaptations of recent prize-winning Brit books in various stages of development — most of them with FilmFour.

First to shoot will be “Brick Lane,” based on Monica Ali‘s debut novel about a Bangladeshi immigrant woman in London’s East End, nominated for the Booker Prize in 2003. Sarah Gavron will direct from a script by Abi Morgan and Laura Jones, with production tentatively scheduled for early 2006.

Phyllis Nagy is attached to write and direct “Case Histories,” based on Kate Atkinson‘s detective novel. “Billy Elliot” scribe Lee Hall is working on an adaptation of “Toast,” the acclaimed autobiog of Brit food writer Nigel Slater, which Owen, tongue in cheek, pitches as “‘Billy Elliot’ with food.”

Her bookshelf at FilmFour also includes Marina Lewycka‘s comic novel “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.”

Owen also has a producing alliance with Aimee Peyronnet at Wild Child Films, who has three major contempo novels of her own in the works with FilmFour — Alice Sebold‘s “The Lovely Bones,” which Peter Jackson is adapting; D.B.C. Pierre‘s Booker-winning “Vernon God Little,” being developed by Pawel Pawlikowski; and David Guterson‘s “Our Lady of the Forest,” to which Neil Jordan is attached.

Owen says she and L.A.-based Peyronnet plan to combine their production banners, but have yet to get around to doing so.

Meanwhile, Owen is collaborating with FilmFour on one non-literary adaptation — director David Yates is working on a movie version of his hard-hitting C4 miniseries “Sex Traffic.”

Over at BBC Films, Owen is developing Andrea Levy‘s novel “Small Island” — yet another book about the experience of immigrant women in Blighty (this time Jamaicans), and yet another recent prize-winner. Only last week it was judged the best book out of the 10 to have won Orange Prize for women’s fiction in its first decade.

“Venus” rising for Michell

Roger Michell is heading for a hectic few months. The director of “Enduring Love” and “Notting Hill” is set to shoot “Venus” for FilmFour and Miramax, while also getting ready to produce Tim Sullivan‘s “Marathon” for Entertainment Film Distributors.

“Venus” is based on an original screenplay by Hanif Kureishi, who also wrote Michell’s “The Mother.” It’s a poignant comedy set in North London about two cantankerous old men, one of them an actor to be played by Peter O’Toole, and their relationship with a young woman.

Michell’s partner Kevin Loader will produce with Scott Rudin, who has shepherded the project to Daniel Battsek at Miramax. The U.K. Film Council’s Premiere Fund also looks set to be involved, with shooting scheduled for the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Entertainment has picked up “Marathon,” a feel-good comedy-drama set against the backdrop of the London Marathon, to shoot around the time of the race itself next April. Michell originally developed the project with Sullivan (writer-director of “Jack and Sarah”) at Working Title.

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