Fox 2000 books 'Passage' for Scott


Fox 2000 has paid seven figures to win a bidding war for the film rights to "The Passage," a partial manuscript intended as a trilogy for Ridley Scott to produce via his Scott Free banner and possibly direct.

Ballantine Books picked up the book in a heated auction during the Fourth of July holiday, forking out $3.75 million for North American rights. Jordan Ainsley was the name on the manuscript, but it turned out to be a pseudonym for Justin Cronin, a literary novelist whose book of stories "Mary and O'Neil" won the Pen/Hemingway Award as well as the Stephen Crane Prize for debut fiction.

"Passage" is a departure for Cronin, as it is a postapocalyptic vampire story set in 2016. The dark tale revolves around a U.S. government project gone awry that turn a group of experimental subjects -- condemned inmates plucked from death row -- into highly infectious vampires. Meanwhile, an orphan named Amy discovers that she has unusual powers, seemingly related to the crisis that quickly overtakes civilized society.

Ballantine plans to publish the book in the summer 2009.

Vampires seem to be enjoying a resurgence in Hollywood, and "Passage" gives Fox its own franchise. Universal has "Dracula Year Zero," which Alex Proyas just signed on to direct, while Columbia and Red Wagon are developing an adaptation of "The Historian." Rogue, meanwhile, is turning popular video game "Castlevania" into a feature with Sylvain White attached to direct.

Scott, repped by WMA, next has Universal's "American Gangster" on his release schedule and is working on "Nottingham," a reworking of the Robin Hood tale.

Cronin, repped by CAA and Trident Media Group, also is the author of "The Summer Guest," which was a Booksense national best-seller. Other honors for his writing include a Whiting Writers Award, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pew Foundation, the National Novella Award and an Individual Artis' Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He is professor of English at Rice University.