EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has acquired screen rights to A Discovery of Witches, the bestselling novel by Deborah Harkness. Denise DiNovi and Allison Greenspan will produce. The debut novel is about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch and a mysterious manuscript that draws them together. They’ll put a writer on it right away as the studio looks for more opportunities to tap the fantasy vein now that the Harry Potter series has concluded. In fact, the success of that final Potter installment has every studio foraging for the next young adult franchise. Harkness is writing this as a trilogy and the second installment, Shadow of Night, will be published by Viking next summer. Harkness was repped by CAA, which made the deal for the Frances Goldin Literary Agency.
EXCLUSIVE: Karen Croner has been set to script Hello Ghost, the film inspired by the Korean comedy about a man whose failed suicide attempt allows him to see ghosts who haunt him until he grants each of them one wish. Chris Columbus will direct a film that will be financed by CJ Entertainment, which has a first-look deal with Columbus and his 1492 banner. Columbus set Hello Ghost up in February 2011 with Next Entertainment World, the Korean distributor and financier. Croner, who’d been known for dramas that included the Meryl Streep-starrer One True Thing, continues to make a switch to comedy. She scripted Admission, which Paul Weitz will direct with Tina Fey starring, and Croner just finished Kiss and Tango for Jennifer Lopez and producer Denise DiNovi at Fox 2000. She’s repped by WME.
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has acquired The Best of Me, the next novel by Nicholas Sparks. No numbers were available, but I believe the deal is similar to the one that Relativity Media made to win an auction for Sparks’ Safe Haven (which just landed Lasse Hallstrom as director). That deal was in the vicinity of $2 million against $5 million, and Relativity Media had a nine-month window to develop a script.
The studio bought The Best of Me in a room where Sparks pitched his novel idea to Warner Bros executives. The main characters are former small-town high school sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks. The story picks up when they are adults who broke up and took different paths. Neither has forgotten that first love affair, and they meet when they return to their hometown for a funeral. They confront the past and a possible future. The book will be published Oct. 11 by Grand Central.
Denise DiNovi will produce the film with Sparks, and the author’s longtime lit agent Theresa Park will be co-producer. DiNovi is producing with Kevin McCormick The Lucky One, which will star Zac Efron, and she also produced the Sparks’ adaptations A Walk to Remember and Message in a Bottle. Sparks has a remarkably high ratio of books turned into romantic films. Aside from the ones I’ve already mentioned here, his other title transfers are The Last Song, a novel he wrote to be a screen vehicle for Miley Cyrus; The Notebook; and Nights in Rodanthe.