EXCLUSIVE: While the focus at Universal Pictures is on who’ll play the lead in The Bourne Legacy for writer/director Tony Gilroy, the studio has plugged itself into another espionage novel franchise. And former NBC Uni CEO Jeff Zucker is at its center. Universal has acquired screen rights to the series of bestselling books by Daniel Silva that focus on Gabriel Allon. A Mossad agent who killed six of the terrorists that murdered Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, Allon is semi-retired and makes his living as an art restorer. But he still takes assignments as an Israeli spy. Silva last year moved the book franchise from Putnam to HarperCollins.
Zucker, who left his post in January and has so far been mum on his future plans, became involved as the film’s producer because he and Silva are close friends and the author wanted it that way. Silva will be executive producer and the studio will go out to writers immediately. Universal has been keen on the Silva series for several years. It almost made a deal in 2007 for a a movie adaptation of the 2006 novel The Messenger with Pierre Morel attached to direct, but that deal wasn’t consummated. Studio will get a writer before figuring out which book to focus on. Allon has been in 10 of Silva’s novels. The next, Portrait of a Spy, will be published in July. Uni execs Peter Cramer and Jay Polidoro are shepherding the project and attorney Michael Gendler made the deal for Silva.
As for The Bourne Legacy, the studio and Gilroy are testing actors early this month, with Joel Edgerton (The Thing), Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Double), Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) and Luke Evans (The Amateur American) definitely on the list and names like Logan Marshall-Green, Oscar Isaac and Taylor Kitsch and Bradley Cooper also rumored to be in the mix.