Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After spirited bidding from multiple studios, Fox 2000 is wrapping up a deal for The Longest Ride, the next novel by Safe Haven author Nicholas Sparks. I’m told the deal is worth $5 million upfront, which is consistent with what Sparks usually gets for his movie deals. Temple Hill’s Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen will produce with Sparks and Theresa Park. They were the producers on Safe Haven. The book went out when A Safe Haven was released last weekend, and it came down in the end to Elizabeth Gabler’s Fox 2000, Warner Bros and Relativity Media. While my brain is squarely in Oscar mode, by my count this is far and away the biggest book deal this year and for that matter in quite awhile.

All the bidders agreed to a quick fuse that will position the movie to be ready for release Valentine’s Day weekend in 2015, and the deal cements Sparks’s status as the go to guy for female-driven romance films. Sparks has seen eight of his books turned into films, including The Notebook, Message In A Bottle and A Walk to Remember, and Safe Haven nearly beat out A Good Day To Die Hard in their respective opening weekends, even though neither Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough are hardly big box office draws. UTA and attorney Scott Schwimer are tying up the rights deal for Sparks and Park.

Both parties just confirmed the deal to me, and supplied quotes from Gabler and Sparks.

“It has been a dream of ours for many years to bring one of Nicholas Sparks’ books to life as a film. We are elated that this dream has finally been realized with The Longest Ride. This wonderful novel captures the finest elements we seek for our films – an incredible story about love and the strength of the human spirit.  We look forward to a wonderful partnership with Nicholas and Theresa,” said Elizabeth Gabler.

It’s Gabler’s first Sparks book, but she has a long track record of tasteful book adaptations including Life of Pi, Marley & Me and The Devil Wears Prada.

Said Sparks: “I am delighted to embark on my first film with Fox 2000.  I’ve long been an admirer of Elizabeth Gabler and her commitment to developing books with integrity and passion.  I can’t overstate my excitement at partnering with such an able and well-regarded studio.”

The Longest Ride, to be published September 24, 2013 by Grand Central Publishing, is divided into two intertwining love stories. It opens with a 90-year old man snowbound and stuck in his car after a major crash on an isolated road. As he drifts in and out of consciousness awaiting rescue, the man sees visions of his life love, who died earlier. Together they reminisce about their life together, including his difficulty in returning from WWII, and being unable to have children with her because of a war wound. They become renowned art collectors and the man has been lost since she died from a stroke. The other romance is between a young art history major and a handsome bull rider who fall in love despite coming from completely different backgrounds. Each has aspirations and dreams, and the cowboy is fighting the clock and should not be riding due to past injuries, but has a family ranch to save. A strange occurrence allows the two generations of lovers to save each other.

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