Just last week, the literary agent for UK author Patrick Ness was in Los Angeles discussing film rights to his celebrated Chaos Walking children’s book trilogy. “The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say,” is the brilliant opening line of the first book The Knife Of Never Letting Go but Ness’ agent Michelle Kass tells me she has been deliberately holding off selling the rights, despite big Hollywood interest, until after Candlewick published the final book Monsters of Men in September. But Kass admits there are some problems with trying to turn Chaos Walking into the next Harry Potter. “First, the book takes place in a world where everybody can hear everybody else’s thoughts. Second, it has some very adult moments. But I think that the Chaos Walking books could be turned into an astounding film, and it’s not just a children’s film.” Her trip west couldn’t be better timed. It comes just as British Prime Minister David Cameron is exhorting the UK film industry to make more fantasy films based on bestselling British children’s authors, even going so far as to tell the House of Commons: “I think one of the keys to Warner’s success is the Harry Potter film franchise which they have been making. There is a great tip and key for filmmakers here. That is, we have got to make films people want to watch.”

Warner Bros in particular has been searching for another British kids fantasy franchise to replace Harry Potter now that it’s coming to an end. It needs to put something in its $161 million studio facility that will reopen in north London in mid-2012. The studio has just renewed its option on UK educator turned author Joseph Delaney’s children’s fantasy series, The Spook’s Apprentice, which has been in development since 2005 and is now called Seventh Son. Sergei Bodrov has been hired to direct, and Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures are co-financing. They’re co-producing with Lionel Wigram, executive producer of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and a new children’s author himself, and Basil Iwanyk of Thunder Road (Clash Of The Titans). The book tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who is apprenticed to a forbidding wizard though I’m told the Warner Bros’ script now concentrates on the 2 teenage characters in the novel. Sounds like they’re making it more Harry Potter-ish. (more…)