Universal falls for 'Gravity,' eyeing Ross

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Universal Pictures has emerged victorious in another bidding war, this time snapping up the rights to a children's fantasy manuscript titled "Simon Bloom, the Gravity Keeper" as a possible directing vehicle for Gary Ross. Ross and his Larger Than Life partner Allison Thomas will produce the live-action adaptation along with Ellen Goldsmith-Vein of the Gotham Group.

Written by first-time novelist Michael Reisman, the young-adult novel, the first in an intended series, follows an 11-year-old boy and his two friends who get possession of a physics book that enables them to alter the physical properties of the world, including gravity. The book describes a magical world based on physical laws of science, and future installments will incorporate other sciences, such as biology and chemistry. The book will be published in August by Penguin.

Sources said the deal is in the seven figures.

Reisman is a longtime reader of scripts and books for Nickelodeon. He became inspired to write his own book when he read the first two Lemony Snicket books. "They were very smart and very witty, and I as an adult responded to them," Reisman said. "I saw how these books could be for adults as well as children."

He began writing his book in 2002 and showed it to his boss at the time, Damon Ross, who was impressed enough to put him in touch with a manager at Gotham Group and East Coast literary agent Nancy Galt. A book deal followed in 2005.

Gotham floated a manuscript to Larger Than Life, where Ross, a physics nut, responded strongly to it, taking it to the studio.

Reisman is not quite ready to quit his day job yet and is still a reader at Nickelodeon TV and Cartoon Network.

"You get to see what your market is like and what your competition is," Reisman said.

Said Thomas: "We really like that it's about a magical world that doesn't involve wizards or things like that. Science is the magic of the story. The kids are learning the laws of physics so they can break them. It's like a new kind of superhero movie."

Naketha Mattocks will oversee for Larger Than Life. Lindsay Williams oversees for Gotham. The two will exec produce.

Jeffrey Kirschenbaum is overseeing for Universal.

Reisman is additionally repped by attorney Peter Nichols.
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