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Warner Bros. is in negotiations to preemptively pick up Queen of the Air, the adaptation of a book by Dean N. Jensen, to be produced by Andrew Lazar, one of the producers of the studio’s megahit, American Sniper.
The package already comes with a script by Cat Vasko, who wrote it on spec and developed it with Lazar, who initially had the book rights.
Jensen’s book, published by Crown in 2013, told the story of Lillian Leitzel, a trapeze artist who in the early 20th century was one of the biggest stars in the world as she performed for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and her tragic love affair with Alfredo Codona, who may have been one of the best trapeze artists to ever flip under the big top. The two were tempestuous artists, divas and madly in love.
The four-foot-nine Leitzel, so famous that she went only by her last name, had a signature move that required her to dislocate her shoulder at every turn (and she would do the move a hundred times) and had wrists that had been grooved from ropes.
Codona regularly executed the Triple, three somersaults in the air so dangerous that other performers died trying to do it.
The book tracked their rise to fame, from the mud-caked, poor small-town circuses to the big time, their marriage and tragic deaths just a few years later. (No spoilers here. Go read the book.)
Sources say the tonal watchwords for the project is The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge and Water for Elephants.
Sniper, which Lazar produced with Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood and Robert Lorenz, has grossed more than an eye-popping $281 million domestically so far. In an example of the capricious nature of Hollywood fortunes, Lazar also was involved with the recently released Mortdecai, which he produced along with Johnny Depp, Christine Dembrowski, Gigi Pritzker, and Patrick McCormick. That movie has only made $7.6 million.
Vasko is an up-and-comer who just had one of her first scripts, Situation Comedy, land on the 2014 Black List, the annual survey of best unproduced scripts in Hollywood. The story about a woman who stumbles upon a courtyard that transports her to a sitcom world is set up at Right of Way.
She is repped by WME, Grandview and Hansen Jacobson.
Niija Kuykendall and Julia Spiro will oversee for the studio.
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