EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer have closed a deal with the John Steinbeck estate for a new version of his seminal novel East Of Eden that will be developed as a re-team for The Hunger Games director Gary Ross and Jennifer Lawrence.
I’m told that the book is Ross’ favorite American novel and that the director plans to tell the generational story in two films. The novel previously was adapted into one picture, the 1955 Elia Kazan-directed film that starred James Dean and Richard Davalos as sons who compete for the attention of their farmer father in Salinas, CA. Ross wants Lawrence to play Cathy Ames, the cold and cruel mother of the boys and estranged wife of the farmer. The films will tell their stories, leading into the rivalry between their sons.
The studio and Imagine first acquired the 1952 novel back in 2004. This was after Steinbeck’s modern retelling of the Cain and Abel story shot back up the best-seller lists when Oprah Winfrey made it the first selection of the revived book club on her daytime talk show. I’m told that the original option lapsed, but then the studio and Grazer put together a new deal in a competitive situation, this one built around Ross and Lawrence, the latter of whom won the Academy Award in February for Silver Linings Playbook. Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley was very involved, as was Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, Uni’s co-president of production. (more…)