Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has just acquired the Dean Unkefer book 90 Church: The True Story Of The Narcotics Squad From Hell, to be published by Random House in the US and Virgin Books in Europe in May 2013. This is a significant deal and it will reteam Snow White And The Huntsman director Rupert Sanders with producers Joe Roth and Palak Patel, who’ll produce with Deborah Giarratana. They will begin looking for a high-end writer immediately.

The book was sold by CAA in a preemptive deal with the studio, with execs Jeffrey Kirschenbaum and Maradith Frenkel overseeing it. Sanders has been developing the sequel to Snow White And The Huntsman, a movie which did just under $400 million worldwide. That project is now moving on a slower track, as the studio tries to figure out whether it wants to make a sequel, or instead a spinoff that focuses on Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman character. David Koepp, who I’d reported back in April was hired to script a straight sequel, isn’t going forward at the moment and no script will be written until Universal figures out the next move. Studio likes the spinoff idea greatly. Because the Huntsman package sold in a five studio bidding battle, Sanders has no option tying him to either film, but he is squarely in the mix.

The upcoming novel 90 Church refers to the address of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics when it was formed in New York City to combat organized crime and drug traffic in the mid-1960s through early ’70s. While the FBI refused even to acknowledge organized crime, 30 agents stood alone against a well-organized Mafia and vicious drug cartels. To survive against impossible odds, the agents used incredibly brutal and cunning tactics to make cases and bring the war to a stalemate. Using an ever-expanding network of criminal informants held together by secret immunity deals, the sinister reputation of 90 Church grew along with the rising body count. The book is fictionalized but based on true events, written by one of the agents who worked in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. That bureau later merged with another and became the DEA.

Roth Films is now in post production on Oz The Great And Powerful for Disney, and in production on Maleficent. CAA reps Sanders.