lord&millerEXCLUSIVE: The benefit of paying big for a hot book is that sometimes it draws the top-drawer talent. Sony Pictures optioned screen rights to the global breakout Graeme Simsion novel The Rosie Project for Sony-based producers Matt Tolmach and Michael Costigan, and the studio now has the 22 Jump Street and Lego Movie team of Phil Lord & Christopher Miller developing the book to potentially direct, and the (500) Days Of Summer and The Fault In Our Stars scribes Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber set to turn the book into a script. This is remarkable progress, considering it was April when the deal was closed by Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad and production president Hannah Minghella. The author took the first pass at the script, and Simon & Schuster publishes his book in the U.S. next month.

The Rosie Project centers on Don Tillman, a professor of genetics who may suffer from Asperger’s and has never been on a second date until he embarks upon The Wife Project, designing a questionnaire to help him find the perfect partner: a punctual, non-drinking, non-smoking female who will fit in with his regimented lifestyle. When the unorthodox and free-spirited Rosie appears on the scene, it is clear that she fits none of his selection criteria, but she still may just be the perfect match to help turn his life around.

neustadtermatchThe ampersand quartet just sat in a room together and decided they loved the idea of a project that wallows in the futility of trying to program love, only to find it is the most random and difficult-to-collate enterprise, no matter what that old dude on eHarmony.com says. Throw in a quirky protagonist, and the scribes and directors are off and running, though the directors don’t commit to things until the scripting is done.

The novel was first published in Australia and the UK, and became a publishing phenomenon there. The author is also an unlikely story; an IT consultant, he decided in his early 50s he was going to learn how to be a screenwriter, then a novelist. It is working out pretty well for him.

The scribes are repped by CAA and Kaplan/Perrone, and the directors are repped by UTA.