'21 Jump Street' Directors in Talks for 'Carter Beats the Devil' (Exclusive)

Phil Lord Chris Miller 21 Jump Street Carpet - H 2012
<p>Phil Lord Chris Miller 21 Jump Street Carpet - H 2012</p>   |   Getty Images
Phil Lord and Chris Miller would take on the long-gestating adaptation of the period magician book, which once had Tom Cruise attached to star.

21 Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are trying to help Carter Beats the Devil finally emerge from development hell.

The once-high flying project, based on the historical mystery novel revolving around magician Charles Carter written by Glen David Gold, has mesmerized Hollywood since it was published in 2001. But despite several big-name efforts to adapt it for the screen, the project has languished.

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Now, however, Lord and Miller are in talks to come aboard to direct the movie, which has been set up at Warners Bros. since 2010. Jon Shestack is producing from a script by Michael Gilio.

Set in the 1920s, the story centers on Carter, a real-life stage magician who performs a trick involving then-President Warren G. Harding. When the president is later found dead, Carter is forced to go on the run and clear his name. The book featured many other real-life figures, such as television inventor Philo Farnsworth, Harry Houdini and the young Marx Brothers.

Paramount originally optioned the book in 2002 for Tom Cruise to star and his banner, Cruise/Wagner, to produce. Once that deal lapsed, AMC took a stab at turning it into a TV series, butthe network couldn’t figure out the adaptation trick either.

Lord and Miller are an interesting choice for what would be a period adventure movie a la Warners' Sherlock Holmes. The duo co-created the short-lived cartoon series Clone High but made their mark in feature animation with the 2009 adaptation of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, successfully translating a tricky picture book into a hit movie for Sony.

Their first foray into live-action was March's Jump Street, which showed how a big-screen adaptation of a TV series could win critics as well as audiences. (The movie, starring Jonah Hill and Channint Tatum, has made a surprising $136 million domestically.)

The duo is currently working on an untitled CG-animated Lego movie for Warner Bros., which clearly wants to keep working with the filmmakers. They are repped by UTA and Ziffren Brittenham.

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