Short stories stir big plans

Oscar kudos spotlight literary form

The short story is standing tall in Hollywood.

When E. Annie Proulx‘s short story “Brokeback Mountain” — originally published in the New Yorker — got a shoutout from the Oscar podium last week, it highlighted the form’s rising stock with studios.

Genre movies have long looked to the short-story. John Cusack last week signed on to “1408,” an adaptation of a Stephen King story. “Total Recall” and “Minority Report” came from Philip Dick stories.

But now arthouse pics are more likely than ever to come from a short story.

Producer Al Ruddy found “Million Dollar Baby” in a book from the ultra-literary Ecco Press — and turned it into an Oscar winner. A few years ago, “In the Bedroom,” based on an Andre Dubus story, won award-season kudos.

And there’s more on the way: Par and Scott Rudin are in production on “The Smoker,” based on a David Schickler story from the New Yorker, with Owen Wilson attached. Pics based on interlinked short stories “Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing” and “The Joy of Funerals” are also in production.

So why does the form — a bastard stepchild in the book biz — work so well in Hollywood?

“With a short story you can expand a bit, but you still have the essence. You don’t have to tear it up like you do a novel” says agent and producer Lynn Pleshette, who helped set up “Brokeback” at Focus.

Says Focus creative exec David Gerson: “You can get a short story cheaper, and people can read it very quickly.”