EXCLUSIVE: Walden Media has optioned screen rights to Ungifted, a Gordon Korman novel that will be published fall 2012 through the Balzer + Bray imprint of HarperCollins. Korman is the author of two installments of the 39 Clues series that DreamWorks is developing as a film. Ungifted is the story of a 14-year-old kid of average intelligence who’s accidentally placed in a school of gifted students and tries to hide among the brainiacs to escape punishment for a prank he pulled at his old school. He eventually shakes up the uptight, socially awkward advanced students and learns something about his own capabilities. Walden’s Amanda Morgan Palmer and Michael Bostick brought in the book and will hire a writer shortly. The author was repped by Curtis Brown. Walden Media has become quite active, attaching Jennifer Lopez to Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego, setting Get Low helmer Aaron Schneider to direct The Conscientious Objector, and getting ready to wrap the Gerard Butler-Jonny Weston surf movie Of Men And Mavericks, which Curtis Hanson directed with help from Michael Apted, who helmed the last 15 shooting days because of a health issue for Hanson. Korman’s repped by Curtis Brown Ltd.
EXCLUSIVE: Walden Media has acquired rights to turn Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? into a live-action film involving Jennifer Lopez. I’d heard that Walden Media will develop the property as a vehicle for Lopez to play the title character, but Walden Media said at this point, she’s attached to produce only. The hope is to turn the property into National Treasure meets The Thomas Crown Affair. The logline: When the ACME agency’s greatest detective Carmen Sandiego becomes the world’s greatest thief, it’s up to her former partner to follow her clues and track her down. Their cat-and-mouse game leads the partner to confront a greater mystery: Is Carmen really a thief or a hero? The property originated as an educational computer game before it was turned into an animated TV series.
The film will be produced by Lopez and her Nuyorican Productions’ partners Benny Medina and Simon Fields, and Underground Films’ Nick Osbourne, Trevor Engelson and Devin Andre. Walden Media CEO Michael Bostick and SVP Evan Turner are steering the property after it was acquired from Hougton Mifflin. The property fits into Walden Media’s mandate to create properties that challenge kids; Carmen Sandiego is used as a teaching tool in more than half of elementary schools nationwide. The project tried the movie route once before; Disney optioned it in the late 1990s and developed a version for Sandra Bullock, but it never went anywhere.
EXCLUSIVE: Walden Media has acquired film rights to Flat Stanley, the series of children’s books created in 1964 by Jeff Brown about the adventures of a two-dimensional person stuck in a 3D world. The plan is to shoot the film live action, using visual effects to turn the lead character into a one-dimensional hero (why do I feel like I’ve given Deadline commenters a wealth of ammunition to discuss the current state of 3D and certain leading actors with those last two sentences?)
The protagonist is Stanley Lambchop, who, after being given a bulletin board by his father to put above his bed, is flattened by it in the night. He’s OK despite his appearance and can slip under doors and entertain his brother by posing as a kite. He even solves an art heist by posing as a wall painting. The series has sold millions of copies around the world. The film will be produced by John Carls and his Wild Things Productions banner. Carls’ credits include Where The Wild Things Are as well as Rango. Walden Media CEO Michael Bostick and senior veep Evan Turner set up the project and are meeting with filmmakers for the adaptation.
EXCLUSIVE: Walden Media has has set a May 23 start in Pittsburgh on Still I Rise, the working title of a drama that will star Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. Daniel Barnz, who most recently directed Beastly, will helm the film. Barnz recently rewrote the Brin Hill screenplay. Mark Johnson is producing through his Gran Via Productions banner. The film will be distributed domestically by 20th Century Fox.
The drama is about two mothers who channel frustration into action and join forces to transform an inner-city public school. Inspired by current events, the film takes aim at the crisis of public education in America. Walden’s Michael Bostick and Morgan Palmer are overseeing the project. Gyllenhaal just completed the Tanya Wexler-directed Hysteria. Davis, who won the Tony last year for Fences, just wrapped the DreamWorks adaptation of the Kathryn Stockett novel The Help and is shooting the Stephen Daldry-directed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Barnz is repped by WME, Gyllenhaal by CAA and Schiff Company and Davis by APA and Principal Entertainment.
UPDATE: The announcement came through today.
Previous: Sources are telling me that film producer Michael Bostick will be announced as the new Co-CEO of Walden Media today, working with CEO Cary Granat who actively recruited his longtime pal. Bostick has long been director Tom Shadyac’s producing partner, but Shadyac recently lost his deal at Universal. (See my previous, Uni Nixes New $$$ Deal For Tom Shadyac.) Bostick’s hiring follows an extensive executive search during which the job was offered to both Nina Jacobson and Colin Calender. But they weren’t willing to put up with the sticky situation at Walden Media after the January shake-up. That’s when head of production Alex Schwartz and Executive VP Jackie Levine exited the company as well as the physical production department, public relations staff, music staff, legal staff, etc. The moves left CEO Cary Granat hanging by a thread and David Weil, the CEO of Anschutz Film Group which is Walden Media’s parent company, really in charge. At that time, Granat retained his title but his reign was marginalized. For months now, no one has been sure exactly what Granat will do. But now it appears he took control of the situation to save himself. Bostick is “someone Cary was actively involved in recruiting,” an insider tells me. “They go back years as friends and co-workers to when they were both execs at Uni.” According to sources, Bostick will oversee new development, while …