EXCLUSIVE: Lawrence Kasdan and bestselling author Harlan Coben are teaming on a feature adaptation of Stay Close, Coben’s latest thriller novel which Dutton will publish March 20. Kasdan, who came to Sundance to watch yesterday’s premiere of son Jonathan Kasdan’s The First Time, will direct the film. Kasdan’s latest, Darling Companion, opens the Santa Barbara Film Festival on January 26th. In Stay Close, a past crime returns to devastate the lives of a photojournalist, a suburban mother with a hidden past, and a homicide detective obsessed with a series of unsolved disappearances. The Hitchcockian thriller plunges all three into a dark world of sex, secrets and shocking violence.
Both Coben and Kasdan told me that they expect to have a script ready by the time the book is published. It’s not the usual way a book by a big author like Coben is brokered. But despite the fact his last four novels debuted atop The New York Times Bestseller list, the only movie adaption of Coben’s work was 2006’s Tell No One, and that was a French film directed by Guillaume Canet. It wasn’t until after that film’s success that Warner Bros acquired remake rights, with Ben Affleck attached to direct, Chris Terrio writing and Kennedy/Marshall producing. All Coben’s books have been optioned repeatedly, only to languish in development hell.
“Everybody told me I was crazy to make that deal with Guillaume, but in hindsight I was enormously lucky,” Coben told me. “That book was optioned first by Mike Ovitz’s AMG, which maybe was a kiss of death, and then Sony tried before the rights came back to me and this crazy young French guy came along with great ideas and a plan to set the film in France. Every one of my books has either been optioned or is under option, and it seems to me that this situation with Larry isn’t much different than an option deal where a producer gets somebody to acquire, then has a script written and then something goes wrong.”
Kasdan told me that after he made Darling Companion, which was stylistically reminiscent of his film The Big Chill, he wanted a potboiler reminiscent of his earlier film Body Heat. “Harlan and I met at a conference organized by Jeff Bezos, and we just hit it off,” Kasdan said. “I’d read a couple of his books, and after asking him why they hadn’t been made into his movies, he told me his tale of woe, of having everything optioned and developed to death. We agreed to look through his stuff, and he said, I just finished a book today, do you want to read it? I think it’s the most adaptable of his books, with a tight plot and strong characters. We’ll have the script ready by March, and at that point we’ll see who salutes. When you boil Harlan’s fiction to its core, it’s intensity, momentum and tension and this will be a medium budget sexy and violent film.”
Coben is represented by the Aaron Priest Literary Agency for publishing and WME for features. CAA reps Kasdan.