EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate has found a director to bring the best-selling William Paul Young novel The Shack to the screen. They’ve hired Stuart Hazeldine to helm the film, which was scripted by John Fusco and will be produced by Gil Netter through Netter Productions and Brad Cummings. The hope is to get in production by spring. Netter just wrapped the Gus Vant Sant-directed Sea Of Trees with Matthew McConaughey.
Hazeldine has been scripting big-scale films like Gods And Kings (the Moses story Steven Spielberg developed before being beaten to the start line by Ridley Scott’s Exodus); the Irish mythological warrior Cu Chulainn saga Gods And Men; and Agincourt, the Bernard Cornwell novel about the adventures of an archer fighting alongside Henry V in France that Michael Mann will direct. He made his directing debut on the BAFTA-nominated the indie Exam, which he wrote, produced and got financed, and he also has some experience with the premise of The Shack that has made the book such a bestseller, with its tale of a man meeting God after a terrible faith-shaking tragedy. Hazeldine helmed Christian, a short film that imagined Jesus Christ visiting a tough British high school, disguised as a 14-year old. The Brit has a strong personal connection to the subject matter.
Lionsgate last year acquired The Shack, a strong fit for producer Netter as he came off the Ang Lee-directed adaptation of the Yann Martel novel Life Of Pi, as well as The Blind Side and Marley & Me. All three of these were tough adaptations of personal stories, and this one is no different. In the book, a devastating personal tragedy befalls Mackenzie Allen Philips. He receives a mysterious note in his mailbox inviting him to the Shack. The letter is signed Papa, his wife’s nickname for God. Mack responds and finds himself in the presence of God, and a life-transforming journey of truth, forgiveness and ultimately acceptance. Originally was published in 2007 out of a garage by Cummings and Wayne Jacobsen, the book caught on and has become a global bestseller with more than 18 million copies sold in 39 languages, with 10 million in the U.S. It has been on The New York Times Bestseller List for more than 180 straight weeks.
Netter also is percolating Glass Castles, the best-selling Jeannette Walls memoir that Jennifer Lawrence is circling. Netter is producing with Lawrence, and Destin Cretton (Short Term 12) wrote the script and will direct. Hazeldine is repped by WME, Brillstein Entertainment and attorney Rick Genow.