In what is shaping up to be the most competitive book-rights auction so far this year, just about every studio is in the mix on Killers Of The Flower Moon: An American Crime And The Birth Of The FBI. That is a book by David Grann (the New Yorker staff writer who wrote The Lost City Of Z). CAA is brokering.
Right now, the lineup looks like this: Amy Pascal and George Clooney and Grant Heslov’s Smokehouse for Sony; Jason Blum and Scott Rudin for Universal; New Regency and Fox with Plan B, whose Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner developed Lost City Of Z; Paramount; Warner Bros and RatPac; and Anonymous Content. DreamWorks possibly will enter the fray with Kennedy Marshall, but no bid from them yet. There is word that Paramount and Anonymous Content might join up together, but that hasn’t yet happened.
Why the stampede for a book whose complex subject matter doesn’t match the franchise fare that studios are most eager to generate? For one thing, everybody thinks it’s a great read. Also, Grann is an accomplished author whose works get optioned. His Lost City Of Z is being made with James Gray directing Charlie Hunnam, Tom (Spider-Man) Holland and Sienna Miller; his other optioned works include his article A Murder Foretold, which is being developed into the film A Foreigner by Paramount and FilmRites with Oscar-winning Argo scribe Chris Terrio writing for Me And Earl And The Dying Girl helmer Alfonso Gomez-Rejon to direct.
It’s usually hard to get anyone to be first to bid, but I’m hearing that low-six against high-six-figure or even against seven-figure offers are already on the table. These could clearly escalate, even though it will take the kind of impeccable creative elements I just mentioned to pull off this execution-dependent murder mystery that both captures the book and makes it commercial.
The book will be published in the fall by Doubleday/Penguin Random House. It is a nonfiction story set in the 1920s, when the richest people per capita in the world were Oklahoma’s Osage Indians. Oil had been discovered beneath their land and they were granted rights that provided a percentage of the revenues pouring in from oil companies. Then, mysteriously, they began to be killed off. Many who dared to investigate the killings met a similar fate. In desperation, the Osage turned to the newly created Bureau of Investigation, becoming the FBI’s first major homicide case. Yet corruption from oil money permeated even the FBI and the White House.
A deal should be done before week’s end. Stay tuned.