EXCLUSIVE: Grey Gardens writer-director Michael Sucsy has formed his HungryDuck production shingle by optioning Peter Radar’s Simon & Schuster novel Playing to the Gods.

Sucsy has written the script and will direct as well as produce the feature. The project will be taken out for financing shortly.

The pic is envisioned as The Favourite meets Amadeus. It tells the true story of French stage superstar Sarah Bernhardt, a pioneer in the culture of exotic, eccentric celebrity who became the world’s first A-list actress. Pitted in a rivalry is up-and-coming Italian adversary, Eleonora Duse, whose modern, naturalistic style and ability to disappear into roles without chewing the scenery revolutionized the theater. Their competition for queen of the stage ignited the most tumultuous theatrical showdown of the 19th century.

In his debut film Grey Gardens, Sucsy directed Jessica Lange to a Best Actress Emmy Award and Drew Barrymore to a Best Actress Golden Globe and a SAG Award. It won Golden Globe and Emmys that included Best TV Movie. Sucsy also directed The Vow, which starred Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams for Screen Gems, and the YA fantasy-romance Every Day for MGM/Orion, based on the novel by David Levithan.

Sucsy is repped by UTA, Anonymous Content, and Bloom Hergott. Aevitas Creative Management’s Allison Warren repped the book. UTA is repping the film.