Nearly two decades after John Grisham’s The Firm made him a household name, the novel is becoming a TV series, which has locked in wide international distribution and is close to landing a domestic network too. NBC is in negotiations to pick up the 22-episode series, produced by eOne Television in association with SPT networks and Paramount Pictures, which owns the rights to the property and produced the 1993 movie directed by Sidney Pollack and starring Tom Cruise.

The Firm, adapted by writer Lucas Reiter, secured a green light for 22 episodes even before talks with NBC started, based solely on international distribution. As part of the partnership between eOne and SPT, the series will be broadcast on Sony’s AXN networks in more than 125 territories around the world. The domestic sale is handled by eOne, which retained basic and pay TV, broadcast and digital/DVD rights for the show outside of AXN markets and handles distribution worldwide, including the U.S. and Canada. Casting for The Firm is under way, with production expected to begin in Canada in July.

The series picks up 10 years after the 1993 feature left off. It reintroduces Mitch McDeere, the young lawyer played in the movie by Cruise, who brought down a prestigious Memphis law firm operating as a front for the Chicago mob. McDeere and his family emerge from isolation after 10 years in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Determined to reclaim their lives and their future, the McDeeres soon find that past dangers are still lurking and new threats are everywhere.

The current incarnation of the the project originated at eOne, which a year ago took out Reiter’s spec pilot script to several networks, including NBC. Lucas had originally developed The Firm for CBS a couple of years prior, but it didn’t go to pilot. He wrote a new version for eOne with Grisham’s involvement. “John Grisham’s the best, he’s a brilliant storyteller and a great partner,” Reiter said. “As a writer and a lawyer, I’ve always been a huge fan, so it’s beyond cool to be collaborating with him on this series.” Grisham and Reiter executive produce the series with eOne’s John Morayniss, Michael Rosenberg and Noreen Halpern.

This marks the first foray into original series production for SPT’s networks group and signals a new direction for AXN, which is actively developing other series, both global and local. “SPT’s networks set out to raise the bar this year, both in the programming acquisitions we make and the original series we commission,” said Marie Jacobson, EVP, programming and production, networks, SPT. “We have found our next big tentpole for AXN in The Firm.”