EXCLUSIVE: Paramount and Indian Paintbrush won a heated auction for screen rights on A Murder Foretold, a lengthy article in the April 4 issue of The New Yorker by David Grann about a series of high-level murders in Guatemala. It takes place in a country devastated by killings routinely perpetrated by everyone from secret police to drug dealers who acted with impunity. In that backdrop, a wealthy businessman who’d watched his wife-to-be get assassinated along with her father, stirred up the entire country — from the grave. After he too was gunned down while riding his bicycle, Rodrigo Rosenberg finally did something that snapped the country to do something about the rampant murders that often involved corrupt government officials. At his funeral, he had an intermediary disperse copies of a videocassette he had recorded himself. In stunning fashion, he implicated the president, his wife, and other close aides in his killing. It set off a maelstrom that led to the appointment of a special prosecutor, who followed a trail of clues to solve the crime that led to a most shocking conclusion. I won’t reveal it here, but you can read the article. The end result: the murder provided the first real impetus for a crackdown on violence in Guatemala.

CAA went out with the 29-page article from the April 4 issue last week, and it whipped the buying crowd into a frenzy. I heard there were at least four bids, including Fox Searchlight and HBO Films, but by mid-day today, Paramount and Indian Paintbrush closed the deal. It’s structured as a co-production with Steve Zaillian’s Film Rites. Indian Paintbrush’s Steven Rales and Mark Roybal will produce with Film Rites’ Zaillian and Garrett Basch. Grann will be co-producer with Indian Paintbrush’s Michael Pruss. IP business exec Peter McPartlin brokered the deal with CAA.

Grann, who just got nominated for a National Magazine Award for other work, has had several of his long articles optioned. They include True Crimes, an existential Polish murder mystery that is being developed at Focus Features with Roman Polanski circling and Brett Ratner producing a script by Jeremy Brock. His book, The Lost City Of Z, is being turned into a movie by Brad Pitt’s Plan B. That started as an article before Grann turned it into a book. James Gray wrote the script and will direct it.

Back in the day, hot magazine articles regularly got optioned for six-figures, and often they didn’t get made. I’m told that will all the bidding, this deal is a potential six-figure payday for Grann, which is a lot more than magazine articles usually draw in this tight market.