DreamWorks goes to 'War'

Lee Hall to adapt Michael Morpurgo novel

DreamWorks Studios has acquired film rights to Michael Morpurgo's 1982 novel "War Horse." Lee Hall ("Billy Elliot") has been hired to write the screenplay adaptation.

Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Revel Guest are producing the project.

The book tells the epic tale of a friendship between a boy and his horse, who become separated but continue to be intertwined as they try to survive the horrors of World War I. "Horse" was a runner-up for the Whitbread Award in the U.K.

"From the moment I read Michael Morpurgo's novel 'War Horse,' I knew this was a film I wanted DreamWorks to make," Spielberg said. "Its heart and its message provide a story that can be felt in every country."

DreamWorks also has in development the young-adult series "Wicked," being adapted by Aaron and Matthew Benay, and "The 39 Clues," being adapted by Jeff Nathanson. Since walking away from his proposed remake of "Harvey," Spielberg has not publicly named his next directing project, though "39 Clues" remains a possibility.

In addition to penning the original screenplay, the CAA-repped Hall also wrote the book and lyrics for the Tony-winning stage musical adaptation of "Billy Elliot." At one point, he wrote an adaptation of the children's novel "Children of the Lamp" for producer Nina Jacobson when the project was at DreamWorks.

"War Horse" recently has been adapted for the stage as well, with U.K. runs at the National Theatre and New London Theatre.

Morpurgo is the best-selling author of the children's books "Kensuke's Kingdom," "Private Peaceful" and "Running Wild," published in September by HarperCollins. He was Children's Laureate from 2003-05.