EXCLUSIVE: Emma Donoghue, the writer of both the novel and screenplay of Lenny Abrahamson’s Oscar-nominated Room, is teaming up with Alison Owen’s and Debra Hayward’s Monumental Pictures to make a feature adaptation of her novel Frog Music. Donoghue, who adapted Room and received an Academy Award nomination yesterday for her efforts, is set to write the screenplay here as well. The novel, her eighth and a NY Times bestseller, is set in the summer of 1876 in San Francisco in the grip of a record-breaking heatwave. A smallpox epidemic is spreading through the city, along with festering racism and fear. The story is inspired by the real-life unsolved murder of a young woman, Jenny Bonnet. In order to bring the murderer to justice her friend, a French burlesque dancer, must risk everything to piece together all the fragments of Jenny’s life.
Alison Owen is producing alongside Scott LaStaiti, who is funding development through his recently formed Palantir Group. Caroline Davidson of Caroline Davidson Literary Agency and Charlotte Knight of Knight Hall Agency repped Donoghue in the deal which was negotiated by Billy Hinshelwood and Michael Winter for Monumental and Palantir.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be working with Emma, who deserves every bit of the huge success she is having with Room, an amazing book and an amazing movie,” Alison Owen told Deadline. “Frog Music shares the same qualities of suspense and extraordinary characters, this time in a period setting, and I feel so privileged to shepherd it into an equally extraordinary movie.”
The formidable award-winning producers Owen and Hayward set up Monumental Pictures in 2014. Last year ITV Studios Global took a minority stake in their television shingle, Monumental Television. Owen previously established Ruby Films in 1998. She recently produced Suffragette with Faye Ward for Pathé and Me Before You, starring Emilia Clarke, for MGM and is currently in post-production on Justin Chadwick’s Tulip Fever for The Weinstein Co. Hayward, a creative driving force behind some of Brit production powerhouse Working Title’s biggest hits, including Les Miserables and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, just wrapped on the third installment of the Bridget Jones series, Bridget Jones’ Baby.
Scott LaStaiti most recently produced the Natalie Portman-starrer Jane Got A Gun, directed by Gavin O’Conner, slated for release on January 29, 2016. He also has Cruise starring Emily Ratajkowski, for AG Studios, coming down the pipeline. The film is written and directed by Rob Siegel (The Wrestler).