Adaptation passes test at Uni Pics


Universal Pictures is aiming high by picking up "The Overachievers," an adaptation of the nonfiction Alexandra Robbins book for Shawn Levy and his 21 Laps banner. The Gotham Group also will produce the comedy, which Brian Gatewood and Alex Tanaka are writing.

In the book, published in August, Robbins ("Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities") chronicles the lives of students in a Bethesda, Md., high school as they navigate the SAT and college-application process. The teens are obsessed with success while they contend with illness, physical deterioration, cheating, obsessed parents and emotional breakdowns.

"I read the book while I was at the tail end of the 'Night at the Museum' shoot, and it really spoke to certain experiences I had had as a 16-year-old, virtually killing myself to get into Yale," Levy said. "And I was kind of horrified to admit that I related to these kids. And there is something really unique about the culture right now where you have kids sacrificing the enjoyment of their youth to get to the next level. And the question is, what is the cost of ambition when you are 17 years old?"

The plan is to make a character-driven teen comedy a la John Hughes. Tom McNulty, president of production at 21 Laps, met with writers for nearly a year before hearing the take from Gatewood and Tanaka.

"Overachievers" is the latest project set up by 21 Laps, which has been on a tear.

"The fact that 21 Laps is able to develop material as broad-ranging as a character-driven comedy like 'Overachievers' or four-quadrant fantastical tentpole 'The Seems' or 'The Devil You Know,' I'm thrilled," Levy said. "I just don't like one kind of movie, and I don't want my company to only develop one kind of movie."

As with any movie the company develops, there is a possibility Levy might direct.

Kristin Lowe is overseeing for Universal.

Robbins is repped by the Paula Balzer Agency.

Gatewood and Tanaka, repped by UTA and Eryn Brown of Industry, wrote "Hairstyles of the Damned" for Nick Wechsler and Focus as well as "Speedo" for Warner Bros. Pictures.

Levy, repped by Endeavor, next directs "The Way Back" for Fox Searchlight and is prepping "Hardy Men" with Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise.