Gee-wizardry

Col sees a franchise in 'Deryni'

Columbia is bringing Katherine Kurtz's "Deryni Rising" to the big screen.

In a six-figure deal, the studio has picked up "Deryni" as a spec by Alex Sabeti. Jimmy Miller is producing via his Mosaic banner.

"Deryni" is a historical fantasy novel first published in 1970 that launched Kurtz's "Deryni Kingdom" series, which, almost 40 years later, encompasses five trilogies, short stories and reference books.

The story is set in a medieval kingdom of humans alongside the Deryni, a race of people with psychic and magical abilities. The first novel centers on a young prince who, after the death of his father the king, must defend the throne from a Deryni usurper.

Sabeti also will serve as an executive producer.

Sabeti, repped by UTA and Mosaic, is best known for writing "The Art of Cool," his high school comedy take on Sun Tzu's "Art of War" that Columbia picked up in 2006. After the sale, Sabeti didn't want to be pigeon-holed as a teen comedy scribe, so he decided to look for stories in an action genre to prove he had more than one voice.

"Deryni" was one of his favorite books as a boy, and Sabeti thought it offered feature franchise potential. He used the earnings from his first showbiz sale to option the entire book series. He adapted it on spec, which gave him a greater degree of control over how he told the book's story.

Columbia now takes over the movie rights to the books, which it hopes to turn into a tentpole franchise.

Andrea Giannetti, who worked with Sabeti on "Cool," is overseeing the project for Columbia. (partialdiff)
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