Styron's 'Darkness' may see the big-screen light


William Styron's Southern family drama "Lie Down in Darkness" is getting another shot at the big screen thanks to "Boys Don't Cry" producer Jeffrey Sharp.

Styron, who served as a Cannes juror in 1983, is popular in Europe, and Sharp is on the Croisette talking to potential overseas partners.

Styron's critically acclaimed best-seller, which came out in 1951, was never made into a film even though John Frankenheimer optioned it in the 1960s. Theater producer Jay Fuchs tried it again in the '80s and also ran into difficulties.

But Sharp, who has a shingle set up at News Corp.'s HarperCollins, said the time is ripe for another go-round, particularly in the wake of two other literary adaptations of period works: Joe Wright's "Atonement" and Sam Mendes' upcoming "Revolutionary Road," which Sharp developed at his former Hart Sharp Banner.

"With those two books being turned into movies, it feels like an appropriate time to do this,' " Sharp said. "The story can be told now with a modern perspective."

"Darkness," Styron's debut book, which he wrote at age 22, tells the story of the rich, troubled Loftis family, centering on daughter Peyton, who winds up fleeing for the New York art world.

Sharp has enlisted the late author's daughter, Susanna, a filmmaker who will serve as a producer and be actively involved in the project. George Sheanshang and Luke Parker Bowles will serve as exec producers.

Styron wrote eight books over a long, complicated career, but only "Sophie's Choice" was turned into a film. That Alan Pakula pic garnered five Oscar nominations in 1982. While the setting and themes of the two books differ, Sharp noted that "the common thread is that Styron has the innate ability to get into the underdog character, to see the disenfranchised and tragically doomed, particularly women."

Sharp Independent at HarperCollins is growing a diverse development slate that includes Meg Cabot's "Queen of Babble" and Jay Barbree's "Live From Cape Canaveral." "Darkness" is the first property on the development slate to come from outside the HarperCollins catalog. (partialdiff)