BBC Films spies teen franchise

Plans to take Robert Muchamore books to big screen

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BERLIN -- BBC Films is getting into the big-screen franchise business for the first time in its history, commissioning a script based on the first of a series of teenage spy books written by Robert Muchamore.

Billed as "more Bourne than Bond," the series of novels are known as the Cherub books. Ronan Bennett has written a screenplay for BBC Films for the first outing and helmer Chris Smith, who shot to commercial success with his big screen debut "Creep" will direct.

BBC Films board member Joe Oppenheimer said the shoot is planned for August, but no budget has been drawn up yet. Billed as a kids' actioner, the movie will include skateboard chases and lots of action. It will be produced by Sarah Radclyffe with Hanway Films selling worldwide in Berlin. The BBC said is hopes to partner with a studio on the project with a view to creating a franchise. There are five books in the series to date.

BBC Films also is developing a project from writer-director James Watkins, whose "Eden Lake" scared up good boxoffice with its tale of gang violence. The unit is developing a Stephen Volk script for Watkins to direct named "The Buried" that former BBC Films chief David M. Thompson will produce.

The film arm also is continuing its traditional role of developing big costume dramas from literary sources. It has sealed a deal with the estate of Vera Brittain to bring her classic WWI memoir, "Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900-1925," to the big screen. The ink is still drying on the BBC's option for the book, but BBC Films said it is "looking to partner with a big (studio) name" on its development.

BBC Films has additionally acquired cartoonist Posy Symmonds' graphic novel "Tamara Drewe," which details the story of a woman who, after being reinvigorated by cosmetic surgery, returns to her rural roots and begins mixing it up with the locals. BBC is developing it with U.K. production banner Ruby Films.