EXCLUSIVE: Summit Entertainment is acquiring U.S. rights to a live-action adaptation of the Orson Scott Card science fiction novel Ender’s Game, with Gavin Hood set to direct his script. Summit, which is winding down its Twilight Saga series, is co-financing Ender’s Game and eyeing it as an opportunity to hatch another youth-driven series, with protagonists that are slightly younger than the kids in the upcoming The Hunger Games trilogy. It’s another opportunity to discover young talent, because the protagonists in the film are just entering their teens. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are producing through their K/O Paper Products banner, along with Odd Lot’s Gigi Pritzker and Linda McDonough, the author and Lynn Hendee. Digital Domain is also an equity partner. The film will be shopped at the upcoming 2011 Cannes Film Festival, with Nick Meyer’s Sierra/Affinity brokering offshore deals. The plan is to put the film into production by early next year.

Ender’s Game is a seminal futuristic novel that Card originated as a short story in 1977 and then turned into a 1985 book that won both the Hugh and Nebula Awards and spawned a series. The storyline begins on Earth after an alien attack, when gifted children are recruited by a government desperate to fight back. The kids are taught a competitive game that’s a cross between the Quidditch matches of Harry Potter and the Jedi light saber battles from Star Wars. Only the best and brightest will be chosen. A young boy emerges as a genius strategist, and the planet’s best hope to destroy the alien Formic race.

Hood is the South African filmmaker whose 2005 film Tsotsi won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and who last helmed X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Warner Bros acquired the novel in 2002 and tried for years to make the film with director Wolfgang Petersen. I’d heard that the author, who long resisted selling the project to film, was a very hands-on presence, and that complicated the movie transfer. The studio’s option lapsed and Pritzker’s Odd Lot stepped in. Odd Lot hired Hood, who has spent the past year crafting a screenplay, in between directing TV pilots like Breakout Kings. While Hood was said to have had a difficult time making Wolverine at Fox, that film posted an $85 million opening weekend and grossed $375 million worldwide in 2009.

Hood is finalizing a visual presentation that will be shown at Cannes. He is working closely with the VFX house Digital Domain, which will also be a production partner on the project. WME, Anonymous Content and David Fox rep Hood. ICM reps the author.