Last Friday, Deadline broke news that author James Frey’s latest YA novel Endgame was part of a bidding war. Later I reported that the result was a movie deal upwards of $2 million with Fox, which came after the publishing deal with sister company HarperCollins, and Google part of the mix. This for a Hunger Games-style series. So here are more details about what happened for the author of I Am Number Four and A Million Little Pieces.
HarperCollins got this started by buying U.S. and UK English-language rights to a trilogy of novels Frey writes with Nils Johnson-Shelton, first of which is to be published on October 7, 2014. The book already has its foreign publishers lined up for a simultaneous release around the world in over 30 languages. Fox signed on quickly — Warner Bros was trolling but never got to make a bid — for the movie rights, the first of which Frey will script based on the the opening book Endgame: The Calling, with Twilight Saga producers Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen of Temple Hill producing a series of movies based on the three books. They also have access to e-book novellas that are part of the series. The interactive part of this has big potential and is being orchestrated by HarperCollins, Full Fathom Five (which created I Am Number Four) and Google’s Niantic Labs, which will publish six Endgame novels for the Google Play store, with the game launching on Android and iOS devices late next year.
The conceit here is that Endgame is meant to be a multimedia experience involving not only the books and e-books, but YouTube videos, mapping coordinates and interactive gaming. The goal is to follow in Google-startup Niantic’s successful Ingress series, a multi-player game which marries vidgames with the physical world. Each book features an interactive puzzle with clues and riddles layered into the text, all of which leads to uncovering a key to an expensive prize: a pile of gold encased in a bulletproof glass case — the awarding of which will be broadcast live on YouTube. The three-book and nine-digital novella deal was negotiated by Harper Collins’ Tara Weikum and UK counterpart Rachel Denwood, and WME did the book and movie deal from New York and the UK, with attorney David Krintzman.
Now, we’ve seen scavenger hunts and attempts at multi-media tie ins to hype movies, and they have had mixed results. The bottom line is, are the books and films good? There were ambitious plans for I Am Number Four which fizzled when the first movie did not connect with audiences. Temple Hill’s Godfrey and Bowen are solid producers who’ve helped steer a successful franchise in Twilight Saga, and they produced the upcoming The Fault In Our Stars for Fox. Here’s the Endgame logline again: In a world similar to Earth, there are 12 bloodlines, or races. Each bloodline has a champion between the ages of 13 and 17 who is trained as a warrior and is always ready to do battle. When they turn 18, the teen warrior behind them gets promoted. This has been the case for hundreds of years, but no one remembers why — they’re always ready for some sort of battle to take place, but it never does. But the tradition continues. And then one day they’re called to fight, and all the bloodlines but the winners will be exterminated. They’re fighting to be the last race.
I am most intrigued here with the reemergence of Frey in Hollywood. Maybe I was the only one, but I felt a little bad for how he was hung out to dry for embellishing his recovery memoir A Million Little Pieces. That book, which read at about 60 mph, had a high-profile movie adaptation undone after Frey admitted he’d fudged parts of the story and took the walk of shame on Oprah Winfrey’s daytime talker. The guy can flat-out write, though, and the whole mess could have been avoided had he simply copped to taking liberties, instead of hiding it. That was the strategy taken by another book published around the same time, Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram, about a convicted bank robber and heroin addict who escapes and remodels his life in a crazy adventure that leads him to Afghanistan. Much of the book was based on the author’s own experiences, but he escaped heat by calling it a novel: Warner Bros is taking another crack at a movie adaptation, with Joel Edgerton attached to play the lead role.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, after watching The Wolf Of Wall Street get scrutinized. None of that has befallen American Hustle, simply because a title card says some of this happened, but doesn’t pretend dramatic license wasn’t taken. I wouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t become a more popular way to handle this kind of stuff, because it puts the concentration on whether the movie is good or not, and not the extraneous stuff which becomes harder to explain away than just saying, well, we never said it was a documentary.