Scott Stuber has acquired screen rights to “American Rust,” the debut novel from Philipp Meyer. “The Motorcycle Diaries” duo of Walter Salles and Jose Rivera are attached to helm and pen the script, respectively.

Stuber Prods. optioned the book through its discretionary fund, and Universal gets first crack at the pic via Stuber’s first-look deal at the studio.

Stuber and Pam Abdy will produce.

The story centers around two longtime friends from an economically depressed steel town in Pennsylvania whose dreams of escaping to California are dashed when they’re implicated in a crime. The novel was recently short-listed for the 2009 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.

Salles and Rivera, who first teamed on 2004’s “The Motorcycle Diaries,” have been working together on the film version of the Junot Diaz novel “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”

Stuber just produced “Couples Retreat,” his second successful producing collaboration with Vince Vaughn after “The Break-Up.”

ICM brokered the deal for the book and Rivera. WME reps Salles.