EXCLUSIVE: In what will likely end in the first huge book to movie sale of the new year, producer James L. Brooks and writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig this week are in the mix with studios on a movie adaptation of the seminal Judy Blume book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Deadline revealed last October that Blume, who turned down overtures for 50 years to adapt her most famous book adapted into a film, finally had a change of heart and granted rights Brooks, Craig and Gracie Films. They collaborated on The Edge Of Seventeen, the 2016 coming of age film that starred Hailee Steinfeld and which Craig wrote and directed. And which Blume loved.
Brooks is producing with Julie Ansell, Richard Sakai and Amy Brooks. Craig and Blume will also be producers. Back then, Brooks told Deadline that studios already had begun knocking, but that they would wait until they had the screenplay. That script was sent to studio last week, and now there are several offers on the table and the dealmaking is getting hot and heavy. The winner will essentially agree to make the movie, I’m told.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was published in 1970 as a YA novel, but it meant much more to a generation of preadolescent girls looking for answers and a sense they weren’t alone as childhood turned into a tumultuous something else. These were real problems they couldn’t discuss with anyone: when would they reach puberty and get their periods? Should they pad their bras, and what to do about the boys they were crushing on? Margaret is a sixth grader who moves from New York City to Farbrook, New Jersey. Raised by a religiously indifferent Christian mother and Jewish father, she prays to a God she imagines is watching over her. In addition to a search for faith, she is curious about upcoming changes in her own body and forms a secret club with four other girls where they discuss subjects like boys, bras, and periods.
The subject matter might seem tame by today’s standards, but it stood alone in its time and there were calls over the years for it to be banned from libraries. It is also among Time’s list of the top 100 fiction books written in English since 1923.
Craig described the book is a cherished memory for every woman who read it as a preteen, which is how this opportunity came about.
“It is this right of passage for women and girls,” Craig told Deadline last fall. “It’s rare for me to run into a woman or girl who hasn’t read it and every time I’ve mentioned it to a woman, they clutch their heart and let out this joyful gasp. There’s something so timely and full of truth and I remember for me that at that age, it felt like a life raft at a time when you’re lost and searching and unsure. This book comes along and tells you you’re not alone. Women remember where they were when they read it. I can’t think of another book you can say that about.”
The opportunity came about this way: Amy Brooks, who is James Brooks’ daughter, told Craig that her 10-year-old daughter had just read the book and how much it moved her. The director and Brooks traded tales of when they read it, and it brought back such a wave of nostalgia that Craig re-read it and was transported back to a time in her own life. Right after this, the 80-year old author sent out a Tweet to her readers, telling them last August how she had thawed in her resolve to hold back her books from being turned into films. Blume wrote that after a round of Hollywood meetings, it felt like the time had come, maybe even for her most famous book to become a film.
“I was surprised when I read it, how much it took me back and that I hadn’t forgotten those feelings,” she said. “They live in me forever. And the strangest and most serendipitous thing happened with Judy’s Tweet, that she was considering opening up her titles to be adapted. I read this at 3 AM, and wrote my reps in the middle of the night: do whatever you can to get this. Then I wrote a long and passionate email to her, telling her what her books meant to me, particularly Margaret, how it came along at a time when I needed it most. She was the first author who made me fall in love with books and by extension, film. And then I called Jim Brooks, because I thought if somehow we can get this, nobody else will care – and protect – it more.”
When all was said and done, Craig and Brooks had the blessings and rights from Blume. Stay tune to how this one plays out. WME reps Brooks, and UTA and Kaplan/Perrone rep Fremon.