Book Market Picking Up As Universal Buys ‘Run For Your Life’ Short Story Package; Britney Spears Memoir & Journo Student’s Takedown Of Stanford President Also Spark Bids – The Dish

EXCLUSIVE: The book-to-movie market that has been spotty with two strikes hobbling the business is seeing an uptick that will lead to a few strong deals before the holiday. It could presage a boom market if the optimism from the latest labor talks lead to a deal and resumption of business.

One big deal just closed at Universal, for an action thriller based on the unpublished 43-page short story Run For Your Life. The story is about a groom marked for death on his wedding day, and the studio is at the altar with a pre-emptive purchase that has Safe House scribe and Designated Survivor creator David Guggenheim attached to write and Sam Hargrave in talks to direct. Latter helmed the Chris Hemsworth action films Extraction and its sequel for Netflix and AGBO; Hargrave will next direct another high-action thriller, Stay Frosty, for Warner Bros with Dark Horse Entertainment.

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(L-R) Sam Hargrave and David Guggenheim
(L-R) Sam Hargrave and David Guggenheim

The short story by Aaron Jayh will be produced by Todd Lieberman and Alex Young of Hidden Pictures alongside Scott Glassgold’s Ground Control and Hargrave. Story fetched mid-six figures, but the deals for the scribe and director put this in the seven-figure range. Universal EVP Matt Reilly will oversee for the studio.

Separately, buyers are circling The Woman In Me, the just-published memoir by Britney Spears about her going from a pop diva to a shackled songbird. This after her father cited unpredictable behavior — that included publicly shaving her head — as grounds for successfully petitioning the courts for a conservatorship that basically kept Spears under lock and key, except to perform and make more money she had no control over.

We’re told bids are coming in already, even though CAA has put it out there that it could be a TV series, a feature film or a documentary. Spears has been well represented in the latter medium with two films that helped galvanize the “Free Britney” movement and helped end the conservatorship. A recent feature on pop diva Whitney Houston was not successful, and one Madonna planned to direct about her own story cratered in pre-production; it seems like the most fertile ground might be in the limited series category.

Finally, we’re hearing Sony, Amazon, Warner Bros and A24 are in the hunt for How to Rule the World: Yacht Parties, Culture Wars and the Downfall of a President at Stanford. Written by Theo Baker, book tells his story of being an 18-year old student at Stanford University who wrote a series of reports skeptical of the questionable research practices of the school’s president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, a neuroscientist who was on the short list for the Nobel Prize. The college president responded by hiring a top law firm and big PR firm to take down the neophyte journalist who wrote the pieces for the student newspaper. Baker wound up being named the youngest-ever recipient of a Polk Award, and in late summer the Stanford president resigned. The book will be published by Penguin Press/Penguin Random House.

This follows a deal to do a new version of The Thin Man, with Margot Robbie’s LuckyChap and Brad Pitt’s Plan B producing, and while nothing will be firmed until the strike ends, that could be a pretty starry configuration for the 1934 Dashiell Hammett novel.

As for the short story Run For Your Life: This marks the 10th recent unpublished short story set for the screen that was brokered by Verve Talent Agency and Glassgold’s Ground Control.

Glassgold is already at work with Universal on another short story adaptation, The Caretaker, to which Sydney Sweeney is attached to star and Platinum Dunes is producing with Glassgold. The other deals: the recent Akela Cooper-attached It’s Over sale to Sony with Roy Lee; the Jayh short story The Dwelling to Amazon with Michael B Jordan starring and producing; I Am Not Alone to Netflix with Jessica Chastain to star and Misha Green to write and direct, with Glassgold producing alongside Simon Kinberg and Craig Flores; Occupant to New Line with Zach Cregger producing alongside Lee and Glassgold; We Used to Live Here to Netflix with Blake Lively to star; I Think My Mother-In-Law Is Trying to Kill Me to Sony 3000; and Wilderness Reform to Paramount.

Guggenheim is represented by Verve and Adam Kolbrenner at Lit Entertainment and attorney Jamie Afifi; Jayh is repped by Verve and Ground Control. Hargrave is represented by WME.

Verve and Ground Control will be representing the upcoming novel-publishing rights for Run For Your Life. The Thin Man deal was done by Independent Artists Group.

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