MEGASELLING FANTASY AUTHOR Garth Nix is poised to take Hollywood by storm. He has assembled an A-list dream team in order to bring Sabriel, the first book in his Old Kingdom trilogy, to the screen. The group will pitch the package to studios later this month via Steve Fisher at APA. Nix is co-writing the screenplay with Dan Futterman, actor and Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Capote, and Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner at Plan B (Brad Pitt's company) will produce. The director will be Anand Tucker (Shopgirl, Hilary and Jackie).
Nix's approach is a departure from the typical selling of a film option, which usually happens well before an entire team is coordinated. But the author, who majored in screenwriting in college, decided in 2004 he wanted to at least co-write the script of any potential Sabriel adaptation, as well as “try and team up with filmmakers whose films I admired and respected”. Nix also wasn't entirely uninformed about the process, having formerly worked on options and book-to-film agreements as an agent with Curtis Brown Australia. “I knew [pre-packaging] was at least theoretically possible”, he said.
Nix was willing to wait for the plan to take shape. It wasn't until the end of 2006 that he got a promising inquiry—from Futterman, who happens to be a friend of Nix's New York book agent, Jill Grinberg. Grinberg had given Sabriel to Futterman to read many years earlier, and Futterman, who says he was “bowled over” by the book, now wanted to adapt it. For his part, Nix says he was “blown away” by Futterman's Capote screenplay—and thus, the foundation of the package was in place.
The pair made a list of about a dozen directors to approach, and Futterman went off to India to film A Mighty Heart, in which he played the part of Daniel Pearl. There, he gave a copy of Nix's book to Gardner, the producer of the movie; soon thereafter, she and Kleiner were on board. Finally, last fall, Nix got an e-mail from Tucker's production company. Tucker shares his and Futterman's vision for the film, says Nix — it's “an opportunity to make a fantasy film that [is] not only a great adventure story, but a compelling human drama — as was achieved by the films of The Lord of the Rings”. The three have already begun outlining scenes, said Futterman.
Planning for the pitch was delayed by the writer's strike last fall, and resumed in February, though given the globe-spanning parties involved, iChat video has been a must. “Just working out the time zones is no small achievement,” said Nix.
But he is confident that his emphasis on working with particular people will pay off. Though book sales alone inspire optimism — the trilogy is published in the US by HarperCollins and has sold over 2 million copies and is translated into 36 languages — what's crucial is “who will serve the material right,” says Gardner. And giving Sabriel the best chance to become a great film, says Nix, “will also pave the way for films of Lirael and Abhorsen.”
There must be some other Sabriel fans kicking around in ontd, anyone anyone?