EXCLUSIVE: In a seven-figure deal, Universal Pictures has optioned The Chain, the 2019 bestselling novel by Adrian McKinty. Baby Driver helmer Edgar Wright will direct, while Jane Goldman (Kingsman: The Golden Circle and X-Men: First Class) is writing the script.
The novel had been in talks to be acquired by Paramount before it was published last July by LittleBrown/Mulholland, but the deal never crossed the finish line. It has come together quite nicely in this new iteration. Working Title’s Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan will produce alongside Complete Fiction’s Nira Park and Wright, and The Story Factory’s Shane Salerno.
The Chain tells the story of Rachel, who learns that her 11-year-old daughter has been kidnapped. The only way to get her back is to kidnap another child. Her daughter will be released only when that next victim’s parents kidnap another child. If Rachel doesn’t kidnap another child, or if that child’s parents don’t kidnap a child, her daughter will be murdered. She is now part of The Chain, a terrifying and meticulous chain letter-like kidnapping scheme that turns parents from victims into criminals.
The book tells Rachel’s harrowing story as victim, survivor, abductor and criminal. What the masterminds behind The Chain know is that parents will do anything for their children. But what they don’t know is that in Rachel they have finally met their match, as she is smart and tough enough to have survived a bout with cancer and is determined to break The Chain while getting her daughter back. Universal Executive Vice President of Production Matt Reilly will oversee the project on behalf of the studio.
The now fully packaged picture keeps up an encouraging story for McKinty, who had written good novels, but wasn’t making enough to support his family, even as he supplemented his paycheck as a Uber driver and taking construction jobs. The son of a shipyard welder grew up in a Belfast housing project during the “Troubles” and was accepted at Oxford on full scholarship — first in his family to matriculate — but he was ready to give up writing, because he wasn’t making enough to support his wife and two daughters. After he got evicted from his home, a frustrated McKinty wrote a fan letter to author Don Winslow, essentially conveying regret he himself didn’t make it as a book writer. Once so despondent over his own paltry book sales that he pondered a return to an early side job as a safari tour guide, Winslow urged McKinty not to give up and sent him to his dealmaker Salerno.
McKinty agreed to give it one more try and that became The Chain, which ended McKinty’s Uber career. It has been published in 41 countries and became a bestseller in 20 of them and made 25 best of the year lists and the paperback hasn’t yet dropped because it’s still selling well. “My story is a story of never giving up,” McKinty told Deadline back then. “It’s a story about writers helping fellow writers. I hope it inspires other writers who may be thinking about quitting, to never give up. I never imagined any of this could happen, but I hoped it would. I had hope. I am so grateful and I hope my story inspires others.”
McKinty is repped by The Story Factory and CAA; Wright by CAA, Independent Talent Group and Nelson Davis; Goldman by Independent Talent Group and Salerno by CAA.