MGM enlists Broadway helmer for ‘Heck’

Timbers in talks to direct bigscreen adaptation as possible franchise starter

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” helmer Alex Timbers is in final negotiations to make his feature directorial debut with MGM’s “Heck,” based on Random House’s bestselling children’s book series by Dale E. Basye.

“Dante’s Inferno”-esque story follows a boy and his older sister who die in a freak accident and are sent to Heck, a reform school for kids in the afterlife where teachers include Richard Nixon and Lizzie Borden. The duo plan to escape with the help of a map-wielding friend.

First entry in the four-book series is titled “Heck: Where The Bad Kids Go,” while followups concerning the different circles of Heck are titled “Rapacia,” “Blimpo” and “Fibble.” With a fifth book due this spring, MGM may feel that Basye’s series has franchise potential.

Karen Rosenfelt is producing the pic, which will be overseen by MGM prexy Jonathan Glickman and production VP Cassidy Lange. “Saturday Night Live” scribe David Iserson penned the original draft of the script, which will be rewritten by Chris Weitz.

As the Tony-nominated writer and director of the acclaimed Broadway rock musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” (which helped launch the film career of Benjamin Walker, star of Fox’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), Timbers has proven himself one of the top theater directors in the world. He also directed Paul Reubens on Broadway in “The Pee Wee Herman Show.” Timbers will next direct “Rocky: The Musical” for producer Sylvester Stallone. That show will premiere in Germany in late 2012.

On the feature side, Timbers has sold a pitch based on an original comedy idea to MRC and is attached to write and direct the project. He’s repped by WME, Caliber Media Co. and attorney Dave Feldman.