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'Secret Life of Houdini' Reappears With Scribe Noah Oppenheim (Exclusive)

Harry Houdini
Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

BUDAPEST -- As Harry Houdini mounts his return to Hollywood with a recently revealed DreamWorks project and a possible Syfy TV series, a slightly older Houdini project is hoping to escape out of development chains.

Summit has hired Noah Oppenheim to pen its take on the master magician in an adaptation of The Secret Life of Houdini, The Making of America's First Superhero.

Summit picked up feature-film rights to the biography by William Kalush and Larry Sloman in March 2009.

The comprehensive tome, published in 2006 by Atria Books, became known for insinuating that Houdini acted as a spy for Britain, was in cahoots with police organizations, and was asked to be an adviser to Czar Nicholas II's court in prerevolutionary Russia.

The studio is not looking to make a biopic but rather an action thriller featuring a character who is part Indiana Jones and part Sherlock Holmes, documenting his rise as a magician along with his covert involvement with the Secret Service.

Jeff Nathanson was at one point involved as a writer and director but now is no longer involved.

Oppenheim, repped by CAA and Management 360, made his entre into screenwriting with a dramatic script called Jackie, which examined the JFK assassination from Jackie Kennedy's point of view.

That screenplay led him to work on Maze Runners, 20th Century Fox's adaptation of a young adult fantasy novel with Catherine Hardwicke attached to direct, as well as Warner Bros.'s remake of Swedish crime thriller Snabba Cash, which has Zac Efron attached to star and produce.

Summit's Erik Feig, Geoff Shaevitz, and Ashley Schlaifer, who originally brought the book to the Summit, will oversee the project for the studio.