Dempsey shifts gears for Universal

Actor to star in film, based on Stein novel 'Racing'

Universal Pictures has acquired screen rights to “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” Studio will develop the bestselling Garth Stein novel as a starring vehicle for Patrick Dempsey.

The book is driven by the reminiscences of Enzo, a family dog with a near-human soul and a philosopher’s mind, who evaluates his life through the lessons learned by his human owner, the race-car driver Denny Swift.

Dempsey, who’ll play Swift, is an accomplished pro race car driver and car owner who most recently drove Le Mans and finished ninth in the race. He also races in the American Rolex Series and owns Dempsey Racing, a team that has a deal with Mazda.

Neal Moritz will produce with Dempsey and Joanie Burstein. Starbucks Entertainment will be executive producer, its involvement coming after the book was chosen as a Starbucks spring/summer book selection when it was published in 2008.

Between seasons of playing the heartthrob surgeon McDreamy in “Grey’s Anatomy,” Dempsey most recently starred in the Moritz-produced “Made of Honor” for Sony and “Enchanted” for Disney. He’ll next be seen in the ensemble New Line comedy “Valentine’s Day.”

UTA brokered the book deal with Folio Literary.