Warner Bros. laps up dog story 'Nubs'

Real-life tale focuses on U.S. marine in Iraq and his mutt

Warner Bros. is going to the dogs, signing on to acquire and develop "Nubs," a feel-good story of a pooch and a U.S. Marine based on a publishing sensation.

The project will reunite Warners with Justin Zackham, the writer of its Jack Nicholson breakout "The Bucket List" two years ago. Zackham will pen and produce the canine tale.

"Nubs" tells the story of a stray dog that Maj. Brian Dennis rescued while on a tour of duty on the front lines in Iraq. After nursing the dog back to health and caring for it as his own, he arranged to have him shipped back to the U.S. and was reunited with the dog when his tour ended.

The story became a media phenomenon in the fall, with Dennis and Nubs making appearances on such programs as "Today," "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

In addition to Dennis' life rights, filmmakers have acquired the top-selling children's book "Nubs: A Marine, a Mutt and a Miracle," which Dennis wrote with Mary Nethery and Kirby Larson. The Little, Brown Books for Young Readers title was published two weeks ago and sits at No. 4 on the New York Times children's best-seller list.

Zackham will produce the pic with his Two Ton Films producing partner Clay Pecorin and with Dan Levine, the former Paramount exec who helped oversee "Cloverfield" and "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" for the studio. Warners has pre-emptively acquired the project, with Jon Berg overseeing for the studio.

The project grew out of a relationship Zackham initiated with Dennis when the Marine was in Iraq, with the screenwriter-producer contacting the soldier after he read reports of the Nubs story.

Those familiar with the project say it has echoes of "Marley & Me," the Fox breakout that grossed $245 million worldwide and focused on complicated relationships between humans -- and complicated relationships between humans and their dogs.

"It's a story that parents can take their kids to but that adults can also go to and appreciate," Zackham said. "It's one of those movies that everyone can take something from."

The terrain of the Iraq War will serve as a backdrop, but the pic is not expected to contain combat scenes.

The Kapital-repped Zackham is writing "One Chance" at Paramount, the story of British opera singing sensation Paul Potts, and he created "Lights Out," the boxing drama that has been picked by FX. He noted that he likes to toggle between dramatizing real stories and inventing new ones.

"Sometimes it's nice to build the house (from scratch), and sometimes it's nice to pick out the furniture," he said.