Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Summit/Lionsgate is moving fast on Child 44, in early talks with Safe House helmer Daniel Espinosa to direct an adaptation of the Tom Rob Smith novel that has been adapted by Richard Price. I’m told the plan is to get into production early next year, but insiders at Summit said that the film hasn’t yet gotten the green light. Scott Free is producing.

The central figure is Leo Demidov, a disgraced lawman in Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, who is assigned to investigate a series of gruesome child murders. The book is based on the Rostov Ripper, the Ukrainian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, who was executed for 52 murders and was enabled by the institutional denial that existed in Soviet political culture at the time.

The book was the first of a trilogy. It was first acquired at Fox, where Ridley Scott was once attached to direct and remains producer. It feels like this one’s finally going to happen. The Swedish director, who made his breakthrough on Snabba Cash, made his Hollywood debut on the Denzel Washington/Ryan Reynolds action film Safe House, and has been in high demand since. He is also contemplating an adaptation of James Frey’s addiction and recovery story A Million Little Pieces. That book was a hot project whose momentum stalled when Frey admitted he embellished his story, but it’s still a ripping good read that has the makings of an interesting feature, particularly if they include the post publication controversy, including an excruciating grilling from champion Oprah Winfrey. UTA and Magnolia rep Espinosa.