Walt Disney Pictures has acquired rights to the Cecelia Ahern novel “If You Could See Me Now” and will turn it into a tuner vehicle for Hugh Jackman.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will produce with Jackman and John Palermo.
The novel, from the 23-year-old daughter of Ireland’s prime minister Bertie Ahern, is the first property acquired by the studio following an ambitious deal made by studio toppers Nina Jacobson and Dick Cook earlier this year to craft musicals that will utilize the singing and dancing skills Jackman displayed in his Tony-winning turn in “The Boy From Oz.”
Jackman and Palermo will partner in each project with Zadan and Meron, who exec produced “Chicago” and will produce “Hairspray” for New Line.
Jackman would play the imaginary friend of a lonely 6-year-old who has been left behind by his mother and is being raised by his aunt. The twist: The aunt can suddenly see the imaginary friend, and a romance blossoms between them.
Hyperion will publish the book early next year.
“We’ve been combing material for a great idea that’s translatable to a musical, and Hugh really responded to this book,” Palermo said. “Our goal with these films is to help reinvent the movie musical.”
Palermo said they’ve been inundated with tuner pitches and have requested outlines of several concepts. They made the novel their first significant buy and will move quickly to put a screenwriter on it. Once a satisfactory script is in place, they’ll secure a songwriter to add the music. Disney execs Karen Glass and Doug Short, and Zadan/Meron exec veep Travis Knox will shepherd each pic under the deal.
Jackman, who has completed the Darren Aronofsky-directed “The Fountain,” is reprising his Wolverine role in “X3” for release Memorial Day weekend by 20th Century Fox. He’ll follow by joining Christian Bale in the Christopher Nolan-directed drama “The Prestige” for Disney and Warner Bros.
Jackman and Palermo are also producing a Wolverine spinoff film that is being written by David Benioff, under the first-look deal their Seed Prods. established at Fox.