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Jess Walter’s best-selling novel Beautiful Ruins has emerged from the ashes.
Sam Mendes has signed on to produce an adaptation of the book for Fox 2000 as a potential directing vehicle. The film had been in development at Cross Creek Pictures with Todd Field attached to write and direct but it stalled and became a hot package circulating in Hollywood.
The story centers on an American actress who travels to Italy in 1962 during the production of Cleopatra, considered the most expensive flop in Hollywood history. In a plotline spanning decades and locations, the actress’ narrative intertwines with Elizabeth Taylor, who starred in the real-life version of Cleopatra, and the subsequent love affair between Taylor and Richard Burton.
Transparent writing duo Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue are now adapting the film.
When the book was being developed at Cross Creek, the 1960s movie at the heart of the story was unnamed — a departure from Walter’s book — because Cleopatra is owned by Fox and there would be licensing and copyright issues. But Fox 2000’s pitch to Mendes was that it could, indeed, incorporate the 1963 epic.
Published in 2012, Beautiful Ruins became an international best seller and catnip for producers looking for a story that takes a pivotal moment in Hollywood history as a jumping off point.
Mendes will produce via his Neal Street banner alongside Neal Street’s Julie Pastor. Walter is executive producing alongside Neal Street’s Pippa Harris and Nicolas Brown.
Elizabeth Gabler and Erin Siminoff are overseeing for Fox 2000.
Mendes, whose last two films have been in the James Bond franchise with Spectre and Skyfall, recently signed on to direct and produce The Voyeur’s Motel through his Neal Street Prods. banner. But that story, which is based on a Gay Talese nonfiction article in The New Yorker, has since been called into question when the the Washington Post uncovered that parts of titular character Gerald Foos‘ tale had been fabricated.Voyeur’s Motel, set up at DreamWorks, appears to have been thrown off course. Mendes also is attached to direct a live-action James and the Giant Peach for Disney.
He is repped by CAA and attorney Melanie Cook of Ziffren Brittenham.
Harpster and Fitzerman-Blue are handled by UTA, Kaplan/Perrone and attorney Jamie Feldman.
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