Warner Bros is giving the Glen David Gold novel Carter Beats the Devil another chance to beat death by development hell. The studio has optioned the novel, and set Michael Gilio to write the script. Jon Shestack will produce, and Ginny Brewer and Jeremy Stein will also be involved as producers. The book weaves a tale around the magician Carter the Great, a murderous rival, the mysterious death of President Warren Harding and Philo Farnsworth’s invention of television. The book was a hot property when optioned for high six-figures in 2002 by Paramount for Cruise/Wagner, a time when Tom Cruise was intrigued with playing a magician. It was eclipsed by a different C/W-developed magic book, David Fisher’s The War Magician. Ultimately, nothing happened on either front. As author Michael Connelly discovered when he sued Paramount to get back his Harry Bosch crime novels, books like these often get buried development costs and overhead charges that studio accountants lump on to justify pricey producer overhead deals. Carter Beats the Devil managed to escape that morass, but had little going after AMC tried to turn it into a series and dropped it. Shestack tried to option it when the book first came out, and followed its subsequent manifestations. “I’ve been trying to get Warner Bros to buy it since the day it came out and that it’s finally happening is enough to make me believe in magic,” Shestack said. Gilio has some heat at the studio after his writing work on Treasure Island for director Paul Greengrass; he also scripted The Interventionalist for Alexander Payne. As studios now discover audiences yawning at “branded” films based on remakes, comics, vidgame and board games, they could do worse than refocus on books they’ve already paid for. Though to the book-to-film marketplace is struggling right now, the segment always provides the most reliable supply of thoughtful films with well-drawn plots and fleshed out characters. How many other books are languishing, just waiting for a fresh advocate?
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