EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has won a bidding battle for movie rights to Proof Of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into The Afterlife, the runaway bestselling non-fiction book about a man who glimpsed the afterlife during a near death health crisis. Mary Parent and Cale Boyter will produce through Disruption Entertainment. Deal was six figures and three studios chased the book.
The film will be written by Ryan Knighton, an interesting story in his own right. He first made a name for himself adapting his own memoir, Cockeyed, about his 15-year gradual descent into blindness. He’s currently adapting the Peter Spiegelman novel Thick As Thieves for Fox 2000, Imagine and Film 360.
Proof of Heaven has topped The New York Times bestseller list since it was published in late October by Simon & Schuster. It is a first person account by Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who taught at Harvard Medical School and other universities, embracing science over faith. Despite being a Christian, he did not embrace religious theories of the afterlife. That was until he contracted a rare bacterial meningitis that penetrated his cerebro-spinal fluid and attacked his brain. He lay near death, comatose for seven days in 2008. He awoke with a clear recollection of what he described as a journey to heaven.
Several studios went after a book for its huge appeal to a faith-based readership. Studios have tried to cover this subject matter — the 1983 film Brainstorm comes to mind — but this will be presented as a true account. The book has been published in 30 countries, with more coming.
Parent just produced the Guillermo del Toro-produced Pacific Rim for Warner Bros and Legendary, and the Darren Aronofsky-directed Noah for Paramount and New Regency. She recently boarded Legendary’s Godzilla as producer.
Hotchkiss and Associates brokered the book deal for the Ross Yoon Agency and attorney Tom Collier, and Knighton is repped by Hotchkiss, Mosaic and attorney Lev Ginsburg. Universal exec Kristin Lowe will oversee the project.